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From the Clueless McGee series , Vol. 1

Happily, returns to Woods Road Elementary are assured, thanks to the big “1” on the spine. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Listen up frog-smackers, PJ McGee is ready to solve any mystery!

Fifth-grader PJ McGee wants to be a private detective like his father, who is away on a SECRET MISSION (or at least that’s what PJ thinks). PJ knows he’ll make a great detective because he has been studying ninja moves; plus, he’s incredibly brave, amazingly fast and has a brain five times as big as normal. When PJ’s favorite school lunch (mac and cheese…he’s written a love song to lunch lady Mrs. Browny’s cheesy mac) turns up missing, PI PJ is on the case with his trusty sidekick, third-grader Dante. PJ follows the clues (even though he is sure school bully Jack B is the culprit). Then Jack hires PJ to clear his name! Only a super detective like PJ could solve such a sticky case. Illustrator Mack’s first foray into the cartoon-driven chapter book will be well received by the clueless and the clue-full alike. Each chapter’s a letter from PJ to his absent father detailing progress on the mac-and-cheese case. PJ is charmingly out of touch with reality. His supporting cast—needy little sister, long-suffering mother, mysteriously absent father and a quirky collection of teachers—adds to the laughs. The scribbly cartoons and illustrations are part of the tale and parcel of the fun.

Happily, returns to Woods Road Elementary are assured, thanks to the big “1” on the spine. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25749-0

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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From the Kate the Chemist series

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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From the Summer Camp Science Mysteries series , Vol. 6

A weak outing in a worthy series, with camp safety plainly playing second fiddle to science instruction.

The latest graphic Summer Camp Science Mystery fills readers in on the ups and downs of acoustics—but not without sounding some sour notes.

A pair of thunderstorms provide opportunities for camp counselors to explain the rule of thumb for approximating lightning’s distance and to reveal the cause of mysterious murmurs heard down by the lake. (They aren’t ghosts but noises carrying across from another camp on the opposite shore.) In between, young campers see how an umbrella can be turned into an amplifier for an old cassette recorder, encounter bats, learn how a sonar fish finder works and make cardboard-tube flutes as another counselor tells an unsourced (Lakota, she claims) legend about the instrument’s invention. Also, in what amounts to a direct tutorial in risky behavior, two children linger at the water’s edge as the second storm rolls in, then flee into the woods in panic until they are lost and plunge blindly into a dark cave for shelter. They are quickly rescued, and a weak joke leaves everyone laughing. Interspersed with explanatory glosses, Torres’ dispensable panels depict bug-eyed figures looking over one another’s shoulders and pointing.

A weak outing in a worthy series, with camp safety plainly playing second fiddle to science instruction. (glossary, recap, experiments) (Graphic fiction/nonfiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4677-0734-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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