Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring.

MEASURING UP

An aspiring young chef discovers her innate resourcefulness and the courage of her convictions.

In this contemporary immigrant story, 12-year-old Cici moves from Taiwan to Seattle with her professional parents, who promote a straightforward formula for success: “good grades, good college, good job.” Cici, however, is sad to leave her grandmother and is determined to bring A-má to the United States for her 70th birthday. When a junior cooking contest presents the prospect of funding A-má’s airfare, Cici, an able chef, aims to win and begins making “American” foods. Working with her in-contest partner Miranda, Cici learns to make porcini risotto, not to overcook pasta, and that she is a super taster. This revelation reminds readers of the secret spice mixture that A-má taught Cici when she was little—will it help her win the contest? Similar hints of superhero identity lurk throughout this textured graphic novel filled with heart and humor, centering girls with budding ambitions, subverting tropes, and celebrating everyday heroes—including the librarian who introduces Cici to Julia Child. Word to the wise: Readers should not pick up this book while hungry unless they have treats nearby such as Taiwanese minced pork over rice, or at least a bubble tea to go with that pineapple cake and zucchini chocolate cookie.

Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring. (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297387-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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