From the Kate the Chemist series

The science is interesting; the flat story is less so.

Kate might get to impress her scientist hero—if she can stop her saboteur.

Fifth grader Kate, a White girl in a diverse school, loves chemistry. She loves science class, science projects, and watching her favorite pop scientist, Dr. Caroline, on YouTube. So she’s overwhelmed when she learns that her school’s received a grant to have a STEM night, and the judge they’re flying in to evaluate the fifth grade science projects is Kate’s beloved Dr. Caroline. Each of her friends knows immediately what science project they’ll do. Elijah, a Black boy who loves drumming, explores sound quality. Birdie, a South Asian girl who loves art, experiments with ink chromatography. But Kate, who, in her own words, is “obsessed” with science, has no idea what to do. After a hubris-fueled false start, Kate gets a clever (and YouTube-ready) idea, but someone in the school is sabotaging her. Parts of her experiment keep being destroyed, and someone writes mean things on her science fair poster. Kate’s use of science to solve the mystery works well within the plot; one sequence explains how to dust for fingerprints with cocoa powder. Uninteresting science clip art doesn’t add much artistic spice, but the included fruit-battery experiment (which requires equipment which might be present in the home) is a good choice. The series protagonist’s obsession with author avatar Dr. Caroline is a throughline that’s run its course.

The science is interesting; the flat story is less so. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11661-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020


From the Kate the Chemist series

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

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. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020


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

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 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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