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Emic Rizzle, Tinkerer

Let’s hope for more from Domanska, as Emic the inventor is a very appealing invention herself.

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In Domanska’s debut adventure for middle-grade readers, a gadget-loving girl discovers that her grandfather was a spy in World War II—and that he knew about a secret invention.

Emily Michael Rizzle, nicknamed “Emic,” loves to pull devices apart, see how they work, and make new ones. She takes after her beloved grandfather, Gregor Rizzle, who died four years ago, when Emic was 8. He was a colonel in World War II, spoke five languages, and said strange things about someone named Tesla and a “free-energy generator.” Emic still has the musty old journal that Gregor gave her with “Nikola Tesla” written on its inside cover. “Keep it safe, child,” he told her. “This book could change the world.” Since then, she’s kept her promise and continued tinkering; largely as a result of her efforts, her sixth-grade robotics team won first prize. But now her family is moving from Chicago to Flat Rock, North Carolina, and in the middle of the school year. Luckily, she meets some kindred spirits there, including the lanky, sarcastic Dublin, who loves British slang. Emic enlists his help in figuring out some strange items, such as a tiny camera from her grandfather’s cigar box, which was discovered in the recent move. Meanwhile, three men in dark suits seem to be following Emic. What are they after? Could her grandfather have been right? Domanska gives readers a delightful heroine in Emic: she’s warmhearted, loyal, smart, clever, and determined to be herself. She also dresses in a trademark mix of contrasting colors and patterns, mixed with vintage pieces, such as her grandfather’s Distinguished Service Cross. Emic knows she stands out, but she thinks, “This is me! This is what I like! Deal with it!” Domanska also provides nice details about Emic’s family situation and illustrates her tinkering well (drat that melted plastic capacitor!). Although spy-thriller plots in YA fiction usually beggar belief, this one is handled fairly realistically: Emic and Dublin have some exciting adventures with a great payoff, and the ending still leaves room for Emic to change the world.

Let’s hope for more from Domanska, as Emic the inventor is a very appealing invention herself.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59021-777-1

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Mnemosyne Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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TALES FOR VERY PICKY EATERS

Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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