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The world’s OK-est kid makes good in this fun romp.

Do you have to be good to be great?

Twelve-year-old Zeke Stahls wants to be good—or rather, he wants to want to be good, but he has an irrepressible mischievous streak. He is a dreamer and a schemer, both qualities that can lead to greatness but that, in Zeke’s hands, look more like a series of escalating pranks. Though certainly innovative, these hijinks do not endear him to his teachers and frequently cause his mother, a hardworking single parent, to clean up his messes—literally and figuratively. So it’s surprising to Zeke when he receives a letter from Gordon Notts, charitable programming director of the Klein Agency for the Betterment of All Mankind, inviting him to participate in a competition for the title of World’s Greatest Kid. Aware that he’s no kind of altruist, Zeke disregards the letter, but when Gordon Notts appears on his doorstep, Zeke is presented with a complex problem—a Gordian knot, if you will: Should he participate in an impossible contest on the off chance that he could win the $10,000 prize his family desperately needs? Of course he should. There is no shortage of enjoyable golden-hearted rascal stories in middle-grade fiction, and this one stands comfortably among them. Though readers will find no big surprises here, the character development, pacing, and writing are strong, making it an enjoyable read. Zeke and his family read white.

The world’s OK-est kid makes good in this fun romp. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 9, 2023

ISBN: 9780062986030

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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