A fast-paced adventure that promotes harmful messages around disability.

DRAGONS VS. ROBOTS

From the Dragon Ops series , Vol. 2

An avid gamer and his sister enter an apocalyptic virtual reality world to rescue their imprisoned friend.

After getting trapped and nearly killed in Dragon Ops, a fantasy augmented-reality theme park, Ian Rivera has sworn off the internet. He’s haunted by visions of Atreus, a vicious AI dragon who escaped from the game. When Ian and his sister receive a plea for help from their friend Ikumi, a digitized copy of the Dragon Ops creator’s deceased daughter, Ian must face his worst fears to set her free from Mech Ops, a virtual reality game about robots and zombies. A troubling theme touting video games as a glorious “equalizer” runs throughout, clearly positioning disability as negative and its elimination in the virtual environment as a positive. Starr, a Black woman whose role seems to be to teach Ian about coping with trauma, uses a wheelchair but plays the most physically mobile character (without a wheelchair) in the game, stating, “We may not be able to run in real life. But we can fly in his games.” When Ian learns that the Mech Ops chimpanzee beta tester uses sign language in real life but is able—and prefers—to speak inside the game, he thinks, “This was so awesome. It was really hard to see it as a castle of evil.” The book follows a White default; the Riveras’ surname may be intended to cue them as Latinx.

A fast-paced adventure that promotes harmful messages around disability. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5518-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem.

MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL

A middle schooler struggles to adjust after moving to an idyllic Massachusetts town.

Trish Das is at a crossroads. Not only is the 12-year-old unhappy that her family has moved yet again due to her mother’s cardiology career, she also has to try out for a new baseball team. The fact that one of her new teammates is a former archrival further complicates matters. Math prodigy Ben Messina went head-to-head against fellow math whiz Trish at last spring’s Math Puzzlers Championship. When Trish emerged victorious, Ben was stunned. The two get closer when the team’s mysterious pregame snacks start making everyone play better while also causing magical side effects during games. Equally surprising are the cryptic puzzle booklets Trish and Ben receive in the mail that lead them to even more wins. But as the puzzles get harder to solve, the risk of failing to do so increases. Alternating between Trish’s and Ben’s perspectives, LaRocca’s novel—a companion to 2019’s Midsummer’s Mayhem—is a Much Ado About Nothing homage that explores parental expectations, complicated friendships, and teamwork. The protagonists’ love of problem-solving shines through, and the puzzles themselves are clearly explained. As a third-generation Indian American, Trish also has moving conversations about the circumstances that led her grandparents to emigrate and how those decisions still impact their lives. Ben is implied White. Final illustrations not seen.

A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1101-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yellow Jacket

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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