It’s hard not to like this realistic, convincing, coming-of-age summer-camp story with a hint of mystery. (Fiction. 9-12)

CEDAR DANCE

An awkward 12-year-old boy faces unexpected challenges during his school’s annual summer camp in this Canadian import.

Raised by his single-parent, hippie mother, Charles Cedar Dance, a scrawny, white sixth-grader, knows little about his father except that his mother met him at an anti-logging protest in 2005 and never heard from him again. Charles attends a private, alternative school for the “granola crowd,” where he’s “not a total outcast” but tends “to live at the edges of the action,” relying on his best friend, Jessica. Arriving at the camp, Charles encounters an anti-logging protest group, and Jessica points out that one of the protesters looks just like Charles. With mixed feelings, Charles surreptitiously spies on the neighboring protestors’ camp, hoping to find out more about his look-alike. During the process, he discovers a man in a black hoodie who’s also spying on the protestors. Gradually, Charles becomes convinced the look-alike is indeed his father. Conflicted about confronting his father and worried the stranger in the hoodie intends to harm the protestors, Charles finds himself in trouble as he grapples with everything. With honesty, humor, and self-awareness, Charles tells his story, emerging as an intelligent, sensitive kid who eventually makes the right choices. The environmental-awareness subtext fits in. The book adheres to a white default.

It’s hard not to like this realistic, convincing, coming-of-age summer-camp story with a hint of mystery. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77337-016-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Great Plains Publications

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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