An entertaining presentation of a fascinating topic that’s more substantive and challenging than it looks. (Nonfiction....

TASTES LIKE MUSIC

17 QUIRKS OF THE BRAIN AND BODY

What if you couldn’t remember a face—even your own? Imagine not being able to forget anything from your past. What if you had Barbie-doll hair, so stiff you couldn’t possibly comb it?

Birmingham takes readers through an amazing variety of offbeat conditions, most of them inherited and some of them extremely rare. While this brief effort packs in ample information, the attractive format, casual with brightly colored pages and cartoonlike illustrations on each spread, combines with the high-interest topic to make it appear readily approachable. However, the vocabulary level and the explanations of the causes for some of the conditions are relatively complex. Some of the conditions—or “quirks” according to the subtitle—include developmental topographical disorientation, which causes sufferers to fail to recognize familiar surroundings, making it possible to get lost in one’s own home; double-jointedness; sleepwalking; color blindness; heightened ability to taste; and synesthesia, a condition that associates numbers, letters, words or music with colors. Many of the topics include a “What’s it like?” section: a brief, informative interview with a person who has that condition. Additional facts are tucked into boxes throughout, like the stages of sleep, types of joints in the human body and the anatomy of a hair follicle.

An entertaining presentation of a fascinating topic that’s more substantive and challenging than it looks. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77147-010-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale.

THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME

Following the precise coordinates of geocaching doesn’t yield the treasure Kirby Zagonski Jr. seeks: his missing father.

Geeky eighth-grader Kirby can’t understand why his mother won’t call his dad after their generous landlady dies and they’re evicted for nonpayment of rent. Though his parents have been divorced for several years and his father, a wealthy developer, has been unreliable, Kirby is sure he could help. Instead he and his mother move to the Community Hospitality Center, a place “for the poor. The unfortunate. The homeless.” Suddenly A-student Kirby doesn’t have a quiet place to do his schoolwork or even a working pencil. They share a “family room” with a mother and young son fleeing abuse. Trying to hide this from his best friends, Gianna and Ruby, is a struggle, especially as they spend after-school hours together. The girls help him look for the geocaches visited by “Senior Searcher,” a geocacher Kirby is sure is his father. There are ordinary eighth-grade complications in this contemporary friendship tale, too; Gianna just might be a girlfriend, and there’s a dance coming up. Kirby’s first-person voice is authentic, his friends believable, and the adults both sometimes helpful and sometimes unthinkingly cruel. The setting is the largely white state of Vermont, but the circumstances could be anywhere.

Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-548-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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