Contagiously goofy and fun.

THE AREA 51 FILES

From the Area 51 Files series , Vol. 1

Area 51 gets its first new resident in 5 years—and a new mystery.

When her grandma moves into a kid-free retirement home, 12-year-old orphan Priya “Sky” Patel-Baum and Spike, her pet hedgehog, relocate to Area 51 to live with Sky’s eccentric Uncle Anish. At 51, humans and Break Throughs (government-speak for aliens) live together off-grid in harmony. Unfortunately, several Zdstrammars (one of many Break Through species) mysteriously disappear, disrupting the base’s harmony and contributing to feelings of suspicion. Despite being deputy head of the Federal Bureau of Alien Investigations, Uncle Anish becomes a prime suspect. Can Sky and Elvis, her alien classmate, prove Uncle Anish’s innocence and find the missing Zdstrammars before it’s too late? YA author Buxbaum’s middle-grade debut is a rip-roaring series opener complete with over-the-top characters and jokes galore. Naidu’s black-and-white cartoon illustrations extend the comedy with ongoing commentary that smartly interacts with the prose. The cast of Break Through species—like Audiotooters, Galzorian, and Sanitizoria—have hilariously creative on-the-nose names with illustrations to match. Sky is coded biracial, with a White dad and Indian mom. Aliens appear in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors; Elvis shape-shifts but looks like a brown-skinned boy to Sky. Though the main mystery is neatly wrapped up, the cliffhanger ending promises more laughs.

Contagiously goofy and fun. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-42946-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

ODDER

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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