Readers would do better with Millicent Min or The One and Only Ivan (2012).

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LIZZIE!

Kumin’s latest effort is hindered by its format; this fictional autobiography is as unpolished and disorganized as a real preteen’s diary.

At her friend Trippy’s urging, 11-year-old Lizzie is excitedly writing her autobiography—beginning with her spinal-cord injury two years earlier and continuing through the minutiae of her life in Florida, which includes crushing on fellow wheelchair user Josh and discovering animal smugglers. With a penchant for Latin and condescension, precocious Lizzie resembles the eponymous narrator of Lisa Yee’s Millicent Min, Girl Genius (2003) but, sadly, lacks her coherence. The book is largely a collection of declarative sentences rather than vivid scenes, skipping from dessert choices to Scrabble to detective work and even interrupting an abduction to define “penlight.” Any adventure in the smuggling subplot fizzles under her (stereotyped) Hispanic friend’s expository dialogue or Lizzie’s obvious statements. (“But what he did next was really scary,” Lizzie writes of the smuggler.) After yet another tangent, Lizzie writes, “This is the kind of thing that happens to me all the time where words are concerned, when I should be paying attention to the question.” Readers looking for a tighter plot may wish that she had, indeed, paid attention.

Readers would do better with Millicent Min or The One and Only Ivan (2012). (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60980-518-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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