LIONS & LIARS

When social misfit Frederick Frederickson rises to popularity due to a case of mistaken identity, he struggles to maintain the charade.

Even his friends see him as a loser, a flea among lions, but 10-year-old Frederick Frederickson is sure that he can overcome the pecking order of fifth grade, someday becoming “his true awesome self.” After a game of dodgeball goes wrong, Frederick can only hope that his family’s annual cruise will give him respite from school. But when a Category 5 hurricane cancels his vacation, Frederick is pushed to the limit and accepts a dare that sends him floating down a river without a paddle. Coming ashore at Camp Omigoshee, a disciplinary camp for boys, Frederick is mistaken for a camper whose bad reputation is infinitely cooler than his own. In his effort to keep up the facade, Frederick discovers that the other boys are also not what they seem. Beasley’s sophomore novel (Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, 2016) is chock full of zany, nicknamed characters (Frederick shares a cabin with Nosebleed, Ant Bite, Specs, and the Professor) coming together in a story of friendship among boys. The boys’ races are not specified, though one character has an Indian name, and Santat depicts one as black and another as brown-skinned; Frederick is white. Readers will find it difficult not to compare this book to Louis Sachar’s more complex Holes, though depth is added with Frederick’s recognition of his economic privilege and questioning of the power his fake popularity gives him.

A fun coming-of-age romp. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-30263-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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