TRAVIS AND FREDDY’S ADVENTURES IN VEGAS

Hatching an ill-considered scheme to escape financial woes by striking it rich in Las Vegas, preteen best buds—one an extreme jock, the other an equally extreme geek—discover, in this breezy debut, that Vegas is nothing like Walla Walla. With Travis’s gift for smooth talk nicely complementing Freddy’s ability to hack any security system, making a bundle at the blackjack tables (with some adult help from a friendly cabbie) turns out to be a snap. It’s surviving the subsequent pursuit of vicious local kingpin Johnny Large and his thugs Moose and No Neck that turns out to be the real challenge. The authors pack their cast with broadly drawn Vegas caricatures, and a slapstick plot with more implied than actual violence. Though at one point Travis and Freddy find themselves dangling from a 35th-floor window clad only in tighty-whities, and they never do get to keep the cash, they ultimately they walk away winners. Think Mission: Impossible meets Gordon Korman’s Son of the Mob (2002), with interwoven family issues providing just the right amount of ballast. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-525-47646-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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A satisfying, winning read.

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Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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