A certain series starter (thankfully), given the promise of an interesting summer in the final pages.


From the Cartboy series , Vol. 1

Bad enough history class is so boring; now it’s keeping Hal from getting his own room.

Sixth-grade history teacher Mr. Tupkin is making everyone keep journals for a time capsule to inform people 100 years from now about daily life in the 21st century—so history even makes the future lame. Hal’s history-buff dad says that he won’t move his fix-it business out of the spare room (so Hal can move in) unless Hal’s D in history becomes a B. Hal’s doomed to share a room with his baby sisters forever. Mom’s no help; she’s too busy studying acupuncture, forcing veganism on the family and taking in hand-me-downs from a bully for Hal to wear. His best friend, Arnie, is unsympathetic and, incredibly, more interested in the middle school dance than in important stuff like getting to level 13 on RavenCave. A fight with Arnie and a blowout with Dad make sixth-grade the worst year ever…can anything save it? Can anything save Hal? Campbell’s debut is fast and funny and dotted with drawings, labeled pictures and goofy timelines. Hal’s authentic voice and realistic 12-year-old sense of humor will hook Wimpy Kid fans, and the idea that history is more than facts and quotes comes across nicely without seeming forced.

A certain series starter (thankfully), given the promise of an interesting summer in the final pages. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3317-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)


In this delightfully spare narrative in verse, Coretta Scott King Award–winning Grimes examines a marriage’s end from the perspective of a child.

Set mostly in the wake of her father’s departure, only-child Gabby reveals with moving clarity in these short first-person poems the hardship she faces relocating with her mother and negotiating the further loss of a good friend while trying to adjust to a new school. Gabby has always been something of a dreamer, but when she begins study in her new class, she finds her thoughts straying even more. She admits: “Some words / sit still on the page / holding a story steady. / … / But other words have wings / that wake my daydreams. / They … / tickle my imagination, / and carry my thoughts away.” To illustrate Gabby’s inner wanderings, Grimes’ narrative breaks from the present into episodic bursts of vivid poetic reminiscence. Luckily, Gabby’s new teacher recognizes this inability to focus to be a coping mechanism and devises a daily activity designed to harness daydreaming’s creativity with a remarkably positive result for both Gabby and the entire class. Throughout this finely wrought narrative, Grimes’ free verse is tight, with perfect breaks of line and effortless shifts from reality to dream states and back.

An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-985-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.


From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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