Less wacky (and more instructive) than Scieszka’s Spaceheadz series—but just as much fun.

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FRANK EINSTEIN AND THE ANTIMATTER MOTOR

From the Frank Einstein series , Vol. 1

Scieszka mixes science and silliness again to great effect.

Frank Einstein, kid genius and inventor, is staying with his grandfather while his parents travel to Antarctica. That’s just fine with Frank; he and his sidekick, Watson, have inventing to do, and Grampa Al’s fix-it shop is the perfect place to do science. Frank is hoping to win the Midville Science Prize because Grampa won when he was a kid…and because the prize money will let Frank save Grampa’s shop from the bill collectors. Frank’s attempt to build a SmartBot fails, but overnight, a spark ignites the brain he’s created for the bot, and the next morning he finds two very different robots in his workshop. Now he’s got Klink, a smart, self-assembled robot who can learn, and Klank, who’s really into hugging. Frank doesn’t feel right entering Klink and Klank in the contest since they assembled themselves, but together with Watson, the four of them can surely some up with something great. Only evil, rival child genius T. Edison stands in their way, and he’ll stop at nothing. Scieszka launches a six-book series with a likable protagonist and a good supporting cast. Science facts are slipped into the story on nearly every page, and Biggs’ two-color drawings are the C12H22O11 on the cookie.

Less wacky (and more instructive) than Scieszka’s Spaceheadz series—but just as much fun. (Science fiction/humor. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1218-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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