A worthy romp that manages to teach powerful lessons as it entertains.

Hello There, We've Been Waiting for You!

In this middle-grade novel, a girl coping with her mother’s death experiences a series of bizarre adventures involving a magical TV set after she moves in with her shopping-addicted grandmother.

Madison McGee, an 11-year-old tomboy with a love of the great outdoors, begins her summer mourning the sudden death of her mother from a heart attack. Madison has never known her father, and she has no guardian to turn to except her maternal grandmother, Florida Brown, a resident of the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, N.M. Florida, who cares less about her granddaughter’s tomboy interests and more about trying to pretty her up, is addicted to shopping shows on TV, filling her house with the useless, bizarre goods she orders every day. Lonely Madison finds solace in one neighbor’s sweet but neglected dog as well as an oddball woman named Rosalie Claire, who has a penchant for wise words and a fanny pack similar to Mary Poppins’ magical carpetbag. Madison’s already topsy-turvy summer gets even weirder when the MegaPix 6000 shows up at Florida’s house. This mysterious, magical television has the power to zap the viewer into whatever show he or she is currently watching, whether it be one of Florida’s shopping shows, Madison’s favorite teen sitcom or a survival-based reality show in the Amazon. Through their time in the MegaPix and in the real world, Madison and Florida end up learning a number of valuable lessons about the importance of family and accepting people’s differences, no matter how odd they might seem. Author Arnold’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy about Madison’s adventures with the MegaPix, is fun and fantastical, with wacky characters that burst off the page and into readers’ hearts. Though the plot at some points relies a bit too heavily on magic, Madison is relatable as a protagonist, which helps keep the story grounded, and its zaniness and originality should be a welcome distraction for young readers.

A worthy romp that manages to teach powerful lessons as it entertains.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1935212515

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

Sophie is caught between a powerful witch and wizard who are terrorizing the magical land of Ingary. Living a humdrum life as a hatter till the malicious Witch of the Waste casts a spell turning her into an old woman, Sophie seeks refuge as cleaning woman to Wizard Howl (although he's rumored to eat the hearts of young girls) in his castle, which moves at will about the countryside. Actually, Howl is a brash young man whose only vice is womanizing. He is a gifted wizard but the despair of his inept apprentice and of Calcifer, a humorously petulant fire demon, because of such human faults as messiness and spending too long in the bath. As in her memorable Archer's Goon, Jones has a plethora of characters who are seldom what they seem and an intricate plot which may dazzle with its complexity or delight by the hilarious common-sense consequences of its preposterous premises. Sophie is a dauntless heroine; when she regains her youth and wins Howl, the odds are this is only the beginning of a tempestuous romance. Great fun.

Pub Date: April 14, 1986

ISBN: 0061478784

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1986

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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