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

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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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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