A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters.

NAKED MOLE RAT SAVES THE WORLD

Kit and Clem are best friends, and both are dealing with life-changing adversity.

Kit is tiny and afflicted with both alopecia universalis (a complete lack of hair that strangers interpret as a result of chemotherapy) and a dysfunctional mother who named her “kit”—not Kit—as a reminder to herself to “keep it together.” Clem, a member of her Latinx family’s acrobatic team, is badly injured during a televised performance. Once she’s recovered from the worst of her injuries, Clem endures her distress by taking on an angry goth identity that contrasts sharply with her previous image. Meanwhile, kit, who is white, copes with anxiety (mostly caused by her mother) by turning into a naked mole rat (the ugly animal her mother often compares her to) and scurrying for cover—or so she believes. The girls’ stories are presented in third-person chapters that seamlessly alternate, not only providing an intimate view of each character’s largely hidden despair, but also revealing their bemused, mostly concealed judgments of each other, as their coping mechanisms serve to drive them apart. A rich cast of secondary characters enhances the tale, including kit’s mom’s somewhat witchy helper and the young teens’ former friend, a kindly boy who has many problems of his own. An author’s note explores anxiety disorder.

A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-724-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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It’s broader that it is deep, but it offers both a global view and art to pore over.

OCEAN

SECRETS OF THE DEEP

A dive into the ocean’s wonders, from edge to abyss.

De Amicis’ painted illustrations give this wide-angled survey a strong visual draw, as sea life floats on every page in grand displays of exotic shapes, gracefully angled fins and spikes, tendrils and tentacles, intricate patterns of dots and stripes. We really have just one ocean on this planet, Weiss points out, and we know less about it than we know about the moon or Mars—so she begins by pairing mermaids with manatees, the legendary kraken with the real giant squid, before going on to profile characteristic residents of each oceanic zone from sunlit surface to the dark and eerie world at the bottom of the deepest trenches. She then surveys local habitats from polar seas to salt marshes, glides past diverse topics from symbiosis and other relationships to sea creatures that change sexes, and, after glances at climate change, “plastic soup,” and other threats, closes with a set of basic principles of environmental care. Each marine creature on view is identified and accurately depicted, with occasional small silhouettes of humans or other animals to provide a sense of relative scale.

It’s broader that it is deep, but it offers both a global view and art to pore over. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9999680-7-6

Page Count: 72

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

TIME VILLAINS

From the Time Villains series , Vol. 1

Historical guests come to dinner and chaos ensues in this uproarious debut.

Twelve-year-old Javier Santiago’s not doing so well at Finistere, his slightly cool, slightly weird semi-castle of a school in suburban Maryland. He’s at risk of failing sixth grade and falling behind his brainiac, history-obsessed best friend, Wiki. Then comes the annual all-school project: invite three guests, living or dead, to dinner, then write an essay. For a budding chef like Javi, that’s a piece of cake. Trouble arises when Javi uses his family’s magical antique dining room table to accidentally pull his guests into the present day, including the infamous Blackbeard, who escapes before he can be sent back in time. Blackbeard wants to use the table to summon his fearsome crew and enact his plans to take over the modern world. Worse yet, the dreadful pirate is hilariously popping up all over Finistere, working as the school groundskeeper to ensure the success of his sinister plans. With the help of Brady, Javi’s tough-as-nails younger sister, the boys work to take down Blackbeard while uncovering the school’s mysterious secrets. Featuring a diverse cast led by the Puerto Rican siblings and Haitian American Wiki, grand doses of humor, and an irreverent take on some of history’s well-known figures, Piñeiro's book scores with this tale of friendship, magic, and adventure. A breakneck pace and Javi’s colorful narration hold things together as the thrilling zaniness piles up.

Magnificent. (list of characters) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-049-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Excellent information presented in a frustrating and distracting jumble.

TOP DOGS

TRUE STORIES OF CANINES THAT MADE HISTORY

Dogs have played a role in human history for eons.

MacLeod provides coverage on eight doggy themes arranged chronologically: Seaman, the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark; Pekinese dogs’ connection with Chinese royalty; dogs that served in World War I; Togo and Balto and their lifesaving trek across the Alaskan tundra with diphtheria antitoxin; the first American guide dog, Buddy; dogs that served in World War II; bomb-sniffing dogs, including Brandy, who found explosives on a jet in 1972; and search-and-rescue dogs, especially those that served on 9/11. A plethora of excellent photographs accompanies the engaging text. Unfortunately, a profusion of text boxes, sidebars, and other interruptions breaks up the stories. Page-sized featurettes on a yellow background headed “Dog Data” primarily focus on the history of dogs and their natural characteristics. Small pullouts entitled “Woof!” contain brief, miscellaneous tidbits that usually, but not always, relate to the topic at hand. The chapter on World War II dogs also includes: a section on modern war dogs; a Woof! on a border collie that scares birds away from a Michigan airport; boxes on both mythological Cerberus and a dog that defended a Persian city in 456 B.C.E.; and a World War I photo.

Excellent information presented in a frustrating and distracting jumble. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-907-1

Page Count: 98

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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