Eerily plausible, at least until the close.

THE HANDBOOK

Twelve-year-old Jack’s world is rocked by the discovery of a copy of the Secret Parent’s Handbook in a neighbor’s trash.

Young readers raised like Jack, his crush Maggie, and his best bud Mike, constantly hearing such lines as “People are starving in India,” “You want your face to freeze like that?” and the arbitrary “Because I said so” from their parents, will be slapping their foreheads—because of course there must be a standardized manual. And as the trio soon discovers, there’s not only a printed volume, but a secret government Parents Agency charged with keeping it out of the hands of kids—and a kid Resistance dedicated to assembling the text bit by salvaged bit. Moreover, it soon becomes clear that if their newly aware offspring depart from the standardized scenarios in the book, parents don’t have a clue what to do next and so can be easily manipulated. Is it any wonder then that all three white children and their families are climactically kidnapped by stun-gun–wielding men in black and slated for re-education camps? Or that masked Resistance ninjas should come bursting in to the rescue? At this point Benton’s invention collapses, and the best resolution he can contrive is an unlikely détente. Still, the premise, backed up by quoted extracts from the Handbook, will be a game-changer for many.

Eerily plausible, at least until the close. (Fiction? 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-94240-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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