Strained and derivative, without sufficient depth to compensate.

THE SCREAMING STATUE

From the Curiosity House series , Vol. 2

Sam, Thomas, Max, and Pippa are in danger of losing the only home they’ve ever known, in Depression-era New York City.

Their strange, unusual skills are valued at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, but the museum is struggling to survive. Several displays have been destroyed, and there is dissention that leads many of the inhabitants to jump ship amid mysterious accidents. When a beloved friend and supporter is murdered, the children are determined to find answers. They employed their skills in series opener The Shrunken Head (2015), but the stakes are even higher now. There are more murders, museum mayhem, skulduggery, kidnappings, and danger at every turn. All the while the four young heroes are concerned that their evil archenemy, Rattigan, is behind it all. A large cast of mostly one-dimensional, mostly white characters moves in and out of the tale, providing clues and hints as well as many red herrings in what turns out to be a distracting subplot. Oliver and Chester keep a somewhat tighter rein this time, allowing some insight into the children’s emotions and growing pains and providing one new character, newsboy Chubby, with a bit of substance. When all seems to be resolved, a very unlikely twist allows for yet another series entry.

Strained and derivative, without sufficient depth to compensate. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-227084-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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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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