Fun and surprisingly informative.


Zeus, a service dog trained to aid a diabetic, is assigned to middle schooler Madden.

Zeus is initially nonplussed by his assignment; it must be a dangerous job for the valedictorian of his prison-trained canine class. But after he meets Madden and his controlling military mother, he begins to rethink his position. Madden benefits from the latest diabetes-treatment technology, but sometimes the pressure of trying to fit in overrides his best intentions. Wanting to appear like just a regular kid was one of the reasons he chose to take up tuba in the band, even though it’s a physically taxing instrument. Because of the way it makes Madden stand out, Zeus becomes convinced that music, as much as he savors it, must be the enemy. He needs to protect his boy from it, leading to lots of humorous if well-meaning attacks on all things band-related, his motivation never registering with the humans in his life. This just adds to Madden’s embarrassment of having a German shepherd accompany him around his school. Narrator Zeus, ever insightful in a canine way, does a hilarious job of deciphering English, assembling interesting interpretations of new words. Madden’s fumbling attempts at a relationship with Ashvi, an attractive flute player,  add spice to this engaging tale. Zeus does not seem to understand racial difference, but Madden and his mom seem to be white; Ashvi’s name suggests that she is South Asian.

Fun and surprisingly informative. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288593-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.


From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Earnest and perceptive.


An autistic girl campaigns to memorialize women branded as witches.

Eleven-year-old Addie knows what it’s like to be different. Her acute hearing makes loud sounds painful. Hugs, eye contact, and certain textures are hard to tolerate, and she can’t always understand people’s expressions. Her prickly older sister Nina is hard to read. Addie’s mean-spirited teacher publicly scorns her work, dismisses her capability, and even joins her classmates’ taunts. Only Addie’s other older sister, outspoken Keedie, who’s also autistic, really understands her fascination with sharks or the fatigue of “masking” her natural behavior to appease neurotypical people. So when Addie learns that her Scottish village once killed nonconforming women accused of witchcraft, her keen empathy compels her to petition for a memorial. But how can she convince a committee that doesn’t believe she can think for herself? Though exposition is occasionally heavy-handed and secondary characters somewhat one-dimensional, the author, herself neurodivergent, imbues Addie’s unapologetically autistic perspective with compassion and insight. Addie’s accounts of constantly second-guessing herself ring painfully true, and her observations are diamond sharp; she scrutinizes people’s faces to ensure they’re “never confused or offended” but wonders, “Are any of them ever doing the same for me?” The bullying Addie endures will leave readers’ stomachs in sympathetic knots, but Addie’s nuanced relationships with her sisters and a new friend, Audrey, infuse humor and heart. Most characters default to White.

Earnest and perceptive. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37425-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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