Despite bumps, a promising-enough start.



From the Finley Flowers series , Vol. 1

The first in a series about craft-loving Finley Flowers and her best friend, Henry.

Henry is about to turn 9, and she wants to find the perfect present for him. When she finds out that the school’s fundraiser is a cook-off and the prize is a whole year’s worth of pizza, she just knows that she and Henry will come up with the best recipe and win the best birthday present ever. The problem is that though Finley doesn’t know how to cook, she does not want to read recipes, listen to Henry’s ideas or get ideas from cooking shows. Everything she makes, from pepperoni parfaits to smoked-salmon smoothies, is inedible. Henry becomes frustrated as Finley ignores his suggestions, and for the first time ever, these friends get into a fight. Young creates memorable characters in Henry and Finley, but Finley’s rivalry with classmate Olivia is given too little back story to satisfy. Moreover, Finley’s plays on her own name (“Fin-spiration,” “Fin-credible,” “in-Fin-ite,” etc.) become wearing. Nevertheless, young cooks who are comfortable with chapter books will identify with Finley’s energy and may even want to try her recipe for “PB&J Pasta.”

Despite bumps, a promising-enough start. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4795-5878-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...


From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.


Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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