MIA MARCOTTE AND THE ROBOT

A well-told comic tale with a feminist theme.

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In this debut children’s chapter book, a girl who dreams of being the first astronaut on Mars gets help for her science fair project from a robot.

Although young Mia Marcotte loves to imagine exploring space, she doesn’t enjoy her science class, where her experiments often go wrong. She doesn’t feel inspired by the third grade science fair until she learns that the best projects “will go on a special field trip…to the space center!” It’s a field trip that the would-be astronaut doesn’t want to miss, so she tries to think of a good project in the three days she has left. Her first attempt doesn’t go well, and Mia’s “architect dad and accountant mom” may not be much help. But maybe her Aunt Serena will; she’s coming for a visit, and she’s an engineer. Serena’s boxes arrive first—and from one of them, a boy-sized intelligent robot emerges, calling himself Aizek. With his help, Mia builds a telescope modeled on Galileo’s. At the science fair, the project has some hitches, but Mia’s inspired by a teenage girl who’s a trainee astronaut. Wondering how such a young girl succeeded, Mia realizes “the simple answer. That girl persisted!” Mia, too, persists, fixing her telescope and achieving her goal. In her debut, Wald tells an amusing story with a series of comic predicaments and a wry narrative voice, as when Mia’s “forehead wrinkled as she tried to find a solution. But the more she tried, the messier her head became.” Aizek’s name appears to be a joking reference to author Isaac Asimov and his famous Three Laws of Robotics. But the story also offers serious messages about not giving up and the collective nature of success; Mia’s parrot and next-door neighbor contribute to her project, for example, and Mia helps Aizek develop imagination. Debut illustrator Caliskan’s black-and-white images are simple but varied and expressive, and depict diverse characters.

A well-told comic tale with a feminist theme.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-2-9568573-1-0

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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