Grass-roots politics at its best, likely to leave readers flushed with laughter.

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DEWEY FAIRCHILD, TEACHER PROBLEM SOLVER

From the Dewey Fairchild series , Vol. 2

Sixth grade dumps a flurry of teacher and school-policy issues on a veteran problem-solver’s plate.

So it’s off to middle school and a whole new level of assignments for Dewey—including a teacher whose shark-based curriculum is terrorizing an entire class, the sudden appearance of single-sheet dispensers in all the toilet stalls, and the dismaying prospect of having the snack machines replaced by wholesome produce from a student garden. But, as fans of his exploits in Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver (2017) well know, no matter the scope or complexity of the case, Dewey has a plan or at least enough of one to get started. In classmates Colin and Seraphina, plus nonagenarian business associate, neighbor, and designated cookie baker Clara Cottonwood, he has an excellent posse, too. Extended brainstorming and research sessions, a poster campaign, and carefully crafted presentations for a climactic school assembly are all plainly offered as models for would-be activist readers, but the author stirs in a big dog, a little sister, classroom hijinks, family interplay, and so much banter and punning (“Your t-issue is a call to duty!”) that the agenda sits lightly on the roller-coaster plot. Dewey is white, but his supporting cast is more explicitly diversified than previously, both on the cover illustration (in which Colin and Seraphina are both shown to be kids of color) and in narrative references to immigrant parents, ethnicity, and like cues.

Grass-roots politics at its best, likely to leave readers flushed with laughter. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944995-85-0

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns.

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY AND THE RIDDLE OF AGES

From the Mysterious Benedict Society series , Vol. 4

When deadly minions of archvillain Ledroptha Curtain escape from prison, the talented young protégés of his twin brother, Nicholas Benedict, reunite for a new round of desperate ploys and ingenious trickery.

Stewart sets the reunion of cerebral Reynie Muldoon Perumal, hypercapable Kate Wetherall, shy scientific genius George “Sticky” Washington, and spectacularly sullen telepath Constance Contraire a few years after the previous episode, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (2009). Providing relief from the quartet’s continual internecine squabbling and self-analysis, he trucks in Tai Li, a grubby, precociously verbal 5-year-old orphan who also happens to be telepathic. (Just to even the playing field a bit, the bad guys get a telepath too.) Series fans will know to be patient in wading through all the angst, arguments, and flurries of significant nose-tapping (occasionally in unison), for when the main action does at long last get under way—the five don’t even set out from Mr. Benedict’s mansion together until more than halfway through—the Society returns to Nomansan Island (get it?), the site of their first mission, for chases, narrow squeaks, hastily revised stratagems, and heroic exploits that culminate in a characteristically byzantine whirl of climactic twists, triumphs, and revelations. Except for brown-skinned George and olive-complected, presumably Asian-descended Tai, the central cast defaults to white; Reynie’s adoptive mother is South Asian.

Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45264-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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