May have younger readers beginning their own writing, painting, or scrapbooking adventures.


From the Cici's Journal series , Vol. 1

A young girl’s imagination meets wholesome, kid-centered storytelling in this sweet graphic novel.

In this cleverly illustrated story, readers meet 10-year-old Cici, who lives with her mother in a picturesque village with friends. An avid diarist, she wants to be a writer when she grows up. One day, while in the forest treehouse she has built with her best friends, she spies an unusual sight: a mysterious older man, accompanied by a parrot, carrying paint cans through the forest. She and her friends set out to figure out both the man’s identity and his secret, hidden deep in the forest behind a looming stone wall. What follows is a tender story involving a zoo, animals, helping others, and the powers of art and kindness. Curiosity, imagination and teamwork take center stage. Most characters, including Cici, present White, though characters of color are present in peripheral roles. While Cici’s story is told primarily by a third-person narrator, the text’s key visual innovation is to periodically insert illustrated excerpts from Cici’s diary as well as newspaper clippings and photographs of events in the story. The final pages include a space for readers to contribute an illustration. While the clunky, at-times saccharine dialogue might be off-putting to some, the colorful and charming mystery at the center of the text will render this infelicity inconsequential for most.

May have younger readers beginning their own writing, painting, or scrapbooking adventures. (Graphic mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62672-247-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An exciting story of school life, friends, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern...


When fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh-grader Marshall Walsh cut through the woods to avoid school bully Chad Hilligas, they unwittingly set off a chain of events that threatens global catastrophe.

What exactly is that pool of mud that Tamaya notices in the woods—gooey, tarlike muck with a sheen of fuzzy, yellow-brown scum on top? Whatever it is, it comes in handy when Chad attacks Tamaya and Marshall, and Tamaya scoops up a handful and shoves it into his face. But that evening, she notices a terrible rash on her hands, and Chad doesn’t show up for school the next day. Revealed in interspersed testimony from secret Senate hearings is the fact that scientists have been researching Biolene, a viable alternative to gasoline using artificial, high-energy microorganisms. The threat of mutations and “frankengerms” had been considered negligible, but now a walk in the woods has led to the quarantine of the whole Pennsylvania town as an epidemic has spread, the airport and railroad stations have been closed, and the Pennsylvania National Guard has been called in. Sachar’s tale is slim, as is the delineation of character and setting, but the fast-paced plot and enough science to give the illusion of substance will have readers racing through the pages.

An exciting story of school life, friends, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern science. (Speculative fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74378-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.


A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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