A lightweight cooperation lesson wrapped in slime.

THE GREAT ESCAPE!

From the Kate the Chemist series , Vol. 2

Kate and friends learn chemistry and friendship through fun, gross science.

Ten-year-old Kate is superexcited about the Fall Science Challenge. The winners will demonstrate a Vomiting Pumpkin stunt! But in her team’s haste to make the best Ghost (vapor from water and dry ice) and Moon Rocks (lemon juice on colored baking soda), they fight with another team, which leads to a minor injury. Kate and her teammates, Birdie and Phoenix, don’t get a detention but a lesson in cooperation. The two squabbling teams are assigned to pretest an escape room. As a consequence for fighting in school while using potentially dangerous substances, it’s an unusual choice, but it certainly leads to a clever, multichapter puzzle. While this escape room wouldn’t be the best choice for an actual classroom—to solve it, the students rely on outside knowledge from the YouTube videos of author avatar Dr. Caroline and use a steamer while unsupervised—it’s a whiz of an adventure when it’s safely fiction. Accurately representing escape rooms, the puzzles are not solvable by readers, who don’t have access to the physical artifacts. The excitement of brainstorming under a time limit, however, comes through. Clip-art–style illustrations are scattered throughout the short chapters, and one experiment, requiring some special equipment, is provided in detail. Kate and Phoenix are White; Birdie is South Asian.

A lightweight cooperation lesson wrapped in slime. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11658-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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