A solid-enough sequel that slips here and there but leaves readers’ goodwill intact.


From the Nightmares! series , Vol. 2

Charlie Laird faces a dire threat to the Netherworld and the Waking World.

Having conquered his fears of the Netherworld (Nightmares!, 2014), Charlie has little to worry about besides a summer job and his growing attraction to his best girl friend, Paige. But things in Cypress Creek never stay quiet for long. A mysterious tonic is making residents in the next town over, Orville Falls, walk the Earth like mindless zombies. The solution lies somewhere between the Waking World and the Netherworld, and Charlie, his stepmother, and his little brother, Jack, set out to solve the problem. The authors dutifully shine a light on some of the murky waters left over from the series opener, and this book’s big villain is introduced in a nifty way. Unfortunately the main threat of the novel is a bit of a bust. The zombielike creatures just aren't a very interesting threat. These books are so concerned with the internal lives of its characters that an opponent that has nothing going on emotionally falls flat. Readers will be far more involved with Charlie and Jack's sibling rivalry or Charlie's growing fondness for his stepmother than the zombie element, which is a bit of a drag by comparison. Still, the story finishes strong, wrapping up the central mystery with a smart resolution and supplying a great tease for the next installment. This second installment may be doing little more than killing time, but at least it kills time effectively.

A solid-enough sequel that slips here and there but leaves readers’ goodwill intact. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74427-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.


From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)


Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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