A spunky preteen girl goes from ostrich rancher to stunt performer in turn-of-the-20th-century moving pictures.

Pearl doesn’t think about much beyond her family’s ranch until Mr. Corrigan, a movie director, brings his Flying Q Film Company to Lemon Springs, California. First he hires Pearl’s older brothers—cowboys all—to act in his silent moving pictures, but when he sees the stunts the 11-year-old can perform, he’s quick to sign on this “nervy” girl. Pearl narrates in short, action-filled chapters, packing in descriptions of caring for ill-tempered ostriches, her risky performances, and plenty of details about the craft of silent filmmaking (including why the film industry moved out west). While stunts are second nature to Pearl, she wonders what it means to act. It comes easily to her nemesis and on-set sister, town gal Mary Mason; their jealous-turned-respectful interactions also drive the plot. Expressive, black line drawings depict some of Pearl’s feats as well as an apparently all-white cast. (The Irish-immigrant cameraman does acknowledge the theft of Native lands by white settlers during filming). An author’s note provides more information about the industry, early stuntwoman Pearl White (the inspiration for Wiley’s protagonist), and La Mesa (the inspiration for Lemon Springs) and its history of filmmaking—and ostrich farming! For another look at a girl in silent movies, this time on the East Coast, pair with Anne Nesbet’s Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen (2020).

Plucky fun. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-375-87038-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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