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An unusual modern picaresque romp with a lovely message.

Eleven-year-old Hazel loves life on the road with her dad.

Her mom died when she was an infant, and for the first four years of her life she lived with Dad’s beloved best friends, Mazen and Serena, while her father grieved and got his drinking under control. But now Hazel and Dad drive all over the country, hauling all kinds of cargo, overnighting at truck stops, and sleeping in the cab of their truck, Leonardo, which Dad fitted with comfortable bunks and a starry ceiling. Dad home-schools Hazel on a wide variety of fascinating subjects, and a marble box holding Mom’s ashes is always with them. Hazel worries that industry automation and Dad’s talk of quitting the road will prevent her from achieving her dream of someday being a trucker, but she’s working on a clever, secret plan. Hazel narrates her story at a pace that varies with their activities. There are hilarious moments, some mysticism, and heart-stopping adventures: Encounters with an abandoned baby, a kitten rescued from a plane crash, a teen runaway, and a school van caught in a flash flood highlight their compassion and bravery. Father and daughter learn to understand each other, and when Hazel’s ingenious plan succeeds, a momentous decision is reached. Hazel is innocent, wise, trusting, loving, capable, creative—and a total delight; readers will root for her all the way. Hazel and Dad are White; Mazen and Serena are Black.

An unusual modern picaresque romp with a lovely message. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68263-252-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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

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. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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