Exemplary characters enliven a comical lunar romp.

READ REVIEW

BOON ON THE MOON

A young troublemaker on Earth has a chance to be a hero on the moon when he and other colonists face a natural disaster in this middle-grade SF tale.

Byron Barnett’s stirring imagination—and a device he calls a “biomass transducer”—allow him mentally to visit the moon and converse with José Ignacio, a 12-inch toy robot he sees as 7 feet tall. But the Arizonan’s love of adventure sometimes clashes with his parents’ rules. When he defies parental orders and spends his Saturday spelunking, he gets stuck and needs police assistance. Now he’s in legal trouble for excessive use of emergency and utility services. To avoid a hefty fine and hard labor, the Barnetts accept the judge’s third sentence option, “corrective exile.” It’s on the moon, where the entire family can go, as Byron’s engineer father already has a job offer pending there. Along with his parents, the almost 10-year-old Byron and his older brother, Taji, make the move, and he’s soon taking the “lunar school bus” to school and sometimes exploring his new world on his own. But threatening everyone on the moon is an approaching white worm, a space phenomenon that’s part black hole, part wormhole, and all catastrophe. As meteoroids rain down on the moon’s surface, Byron tries rescuing the people, including his family, who missed the lunar evacuation. Huddles’ literary debut is a brisk, delightful story. Though Byron is the undisputed protagonist, each Barnett is well-established. For example, the Barnetts’ adopted Taji is Swedish-Kenyan, as they had been friends with his late parents. The highlight, however, is the friendship between Byron and José Ignacio. Byron is unquestionably imagining their conversations, and the generally reluctant José Ignacio is his apparent conscience. Huddles caters to his younger middle-grade readers, defining some of the big words, providing occasional reminders that José Ignacio is a toy, and italicizing dialogue when people are speaking via space helmet intercom. The prose and action are fast-paced and often funny: A bus that swerves to avoid a crashing meteoroid contains passengers “of the screaming variety.” This book launches a prospective series featuring Byron, and the time-jump ending is a clear setup for a sequel.

Exemplary characters enliven a comical lunar romp.

Pub Date: March 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0997085181

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths.

MAÑANALAND

A boy journeys to self-discovery through the power of stories and traditions.

Eleven-year-old Maximiliano Córdoba is ready for an idyllic summer. He plans to work hard as a builder for his father and train for fútbol tryouts. Plus, Max hopes dad will take him to visit the towering ruins of La Reina Gigante, a haunted hideout used in the past by the Guardians to hide refugees as they fled Abismo, a war-torn, neighboring dictatorship. However, when Max must provide his birth certificate to join the team, he feels his dream summer crumble away. The document disappeared years ago, along with his mother, the woman with whom Max shares “leche quemada” eyes. Soon, Papá leaves on a three-week journey to request a new one, and Max finds himself torn between two desires: to know the truth about why his mother left when he was a baby and to make the team. As Max discovers the enchanting stories his grandfather has been telling him for years have an actual foothold in reality, he must choose between his own dreams and those of others. Kirkus Prize winner Ryan (Echo, 2015) beautifully layers thought-provoking topics onto her narrative while keeping readers immersed in the story’s world. Although set in the fictional country of Santa Maria, “somewhere in the Américas,” the struggles of refugee immigrants and the compassion of those who protect the travelers feel very relevant.

This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths. (Fantasy. 7-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-15786-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II.

LIFEBOAT 12

An escape from war-torn Britain becomes a struggle for survival when a ship is torpedoed off the coast of England.

In June 1940, Great Britain formed the Children’s Overseas Reception Board to transfer Britain’s children away from the encroaching war to safe harbors around the world. Over 200,000 children between the ages of 5 and 15 applied for just 20,000 spots. Thirteen-year-old Kenneth Sparks is chosen to travel on the City of Benares, a luxury ocean liner, to Canada, where he will live with his aunt in Edmonton. The children are distracted by rich food, new toys, and soft beds, but the accompanying convoy of war ships is a constant reminder that while the blitzkrieg might be behind them, German torpedoes are a very present threat. Three days into their voyage, the Benares is hit, sending crew and passengers into the lifeboats and the water. Ken, along with a handful of others, all white except 32 Asian sailors of varied ethnicity (called Lascars at the time), must survive with little water, food, or shelter if they are to make it out alive. Told in verse, the story of Lifeboat 12 is lyrical, terrifying, and even at times funny. Hood makes effective use of line breaks and punctuation to wrap readers up in Ken’s tale. Copious research, including interviews with the real Ken Sparks, went into the making of this fictional recasting of a true story of survival. Backmatter offers further information, including the racism experienced by the Lascars.

A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II. (Historical verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6883-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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