From the SPHDZ series , Vol. 4

Secret codes…science and math tidbits…hamster-translation websites…and the odd flying whale. ULTRA FRESH! (Humorous science...

With the evil SPHDZ in control of the Brainwave, is there any hope left for mankind…or hamsterkind?

Brooklyn fifth-grader Michael K., his human friends Venus and TJ and their alien buddies Jennifer, Bob and Major Fluffy are at a total loss. They reached their goal of recruiting 3.14 million earthlings to be SPHDZ, but the chief of the Anti-Alien Agency turned out to be an evil alien. He stole the brainwave they had collected. Now, the group, along with unlikely allies Agents Umber and Hot Magenta of the AAA, DarkWave X agents Delta, Tango and Foxtrot, and Mom K., Dad K. and Baby K., lives in fear that he will use it to bllrrp the planet Gonf and then turn off Earth. They can’t figure out why the chief hasn’t used it yet, and they have gone through plans A through Y to try to recover it. When the chief’s plan is revealed, it’s going to take the whole biosphere to cut him down to size. The madcap conclusion to Scieszka and Prigmore’s delusionally frenetic and fantastically silly series will delight SPHDZ across the land, but it probably isn’t a great place to start this Internet-integrated, highly illustrated quartet. Start youngsters with the first, and they will be SPHDZ (and readers) for life.

Secret codes…science and math tidbits…hamster-translation websites…and the odd flying whale. ULTRA FRESH! (Humorous science fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7957-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013


From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017


An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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