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

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Emic Rizzle, Tinkerer

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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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE NAME JAR

Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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