Rote of plot and themes but with a (human) cast that does address a definite lack in the largely lily-white throngs of...

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THE ZERO DEGREE ZOMBIE ZONE

Four African-American fourth-graders have to lay aside their quarrels to save the Earth from an invasion of icy zombies.

Storywise, Bass doesn’t try for anything complicated or, for that matter, particularly logical. Having dropped a very important ring in the halls of Thurgood Cleavon Wilson Elementary, giant ice king Zenon threatens nerdy narrator Bakari Katari Johnson with a planetary invasion to get it back. Bakari is mystified until he spots the ring on the finger of classmate Keisha, mouthy mouthpiece for smug all-star athlete/teachers’ pet Tariq. It all sets off a round of squabbles and hall and lunchroom fracases with shambling zombie minions, a visit to Zenon’s icy dimension, and finally a bit of magic using the ring and a special marble that Bakari just happens to have from his granddad to close the gates to the Zombie Zone forever. Along with Bakari’s chubby best friend, Wardell, the young folk go from enemies to allies by the end. Craft tucks in lots of fluidly drawn scenes featuring purse-lipped students with oversize heads, jagged-edged attackers and the aforementioned ring in action.

Rote of plot and themes but with a (human) cast that does address a definite lack in the largely lily-white throngs of middle-grade fantasies. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-13210-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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