While this caper proves less brain-teasing and exciting than its predecessors, the four (soon to be five?) Red Blazer gals...

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THE MISTAKEN MASTERPIECE

From the Red Blazer Girls series

Fresh from solving The Vanishing Violin (2010) mystery, seventh-grade amateur sleuths and best friends Sophie, Margaret, Rebecca and Leigh Ann of St. Veronica’s all-girl’s school in Manhattan tackle two new cases.

This third installment opens with Sophie receiving a broken nose after “accidentally” colliding with arch-rival Livvy at swim practice. When Sophie’s dad arranges for the Red Blazer girls to spend a day with teen idol Nate Etan on his movie set, Sophie agrees to be his dog sitter. The pace accelerates after Father Julian enlists the Red Blazer Girls Detective Agency to tackle two cases. The first involves determining which of two seemingly identical baseballs autographed by the New York Yankees 1928 starting line-up is real. Surprisingly, Nate’s dog helps unravel this one. The second case concerns a painting that could be valuable if the girls can prove it was painted before 1961. As Sophie balances dog-sitting, school, performing in The Blazers band, swim team, worrying about boyfriend Raf and troubling encounters with Livvy, she and her pals piece together the increasingly complex painting puzzle in a frenzied finale. As usual, Sophie narrates with humor and self-effacing aplomb. Visual evidence inserted in the text invites reader participation.

While this caper proves less brain-teasing and exciting than its predecessors, the four (soon to be five?) Red Blazer gals still rock. (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86740-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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