Intriguing premise + themes with wings + a light hand on the rudder = a flying start.

THE TINY GENIUSES FLY TO THE RESCUE

From the Tiny Geniuses series , Vol. 1

With a little help from some little friends—namely, Amelia Earhart and Sir Isaac Newton—a failing fourth-grader scores a science fair triumph.

Mom insists that Jake do well in the upcoming expo or quit baseball—so when his equally desperate wishes that someone do his project for him bring two figurines in his “Heroes of History” set to life, he thinks his problems are over. Unfortunately they’re only just beginning, as both of his tiny advisers turn out to be so wrapped up in delighted explorations of the wonders of Jake’s bedroom and the world beyond that he spends most of his time and energy just trying (with mixed success) to keep them secret. In the meantime, though, their courage, curiosity, and enthusiasm for tinkering turn out to be so infectious that when they do present Jake with a small working airplane and notes on the principles of flight, he decides that it would be better to do his own work—and does. Along with digestible bits of history and Newtonian physics, Bryant infuses the tale with comical incidents while showing that Jake’s gloomy conviction that he’s “too dumb” to succeed is demonstrably wrong. Jake is depicted on the cover as white (along with Earhart and Newton); the cast otherwise seems to adhere to a white default.

Intriguing premise + themes with wings + a light hand on the rudder = a flying start. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-90951-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more