Every first date should be this charming.

READ REVIEW

DANNY CONSTANTINO'S FIRST DATE

A seventh grader invites a celebrity to the school dance.

Danny Constantino was best friends with Natalie Flores Griffin throughout primary school. When Natalie went on to become a famous child star in Hollywood, the pair emailed back and forth for a bit, but the emails eventually stopped. Three years later, Danny’s dealing with the loss of his childhood dog and a mom who’s running for mayor. Luckily for Danny, the big dance is coming up and Natalie has accepted his emailed invitation to be his date…and everyone is losing it. Danny’s mom wants to use her in the mayoral campaign. Danny’s principal wants to get Natalie to take part in the pep rally. Danny’s friends want her to go trick-or-treating with them. Danny juggles everyone’s desires as best he can while reconnecting with an old friend who hoped for nothing more than a few days out of the spotlight. Danny and Natalie’s blossoming romance is well drawn, and Acampora steers clear of treacle territory with deft deployment of subplots. The book’s structure is a bit uneven, and some of the supporting players are thinly developed, but Danny’s relationships with his grandmother, his mother, and Natalie reinforce one another, painting a strong portrait of a young boy coming in to his own with the help of three strong female characters. Danny and Natalie seem to present white, but Danny has several friends of color.

Every first date should be this charming. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1661-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns.

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY AND THE RIDDLE OF AGES

From the Mysterious Benedict Society series , Vol. 4

When deadly minions of archvillain Ledroptha Curtain escape from prison, the talented young protégés of his twin brother, Nicholas Benedict, reunite for a new round of desperate ploys and ingenious trickery.

Stewart sets the reunion of cerebral Reynie Muldoon Perumal, hypercapable Kate Wetherall, shy scientific genius George “Sticky” Washington, and spectacularly sullen telepath Constance Contraire a few years after the previous episode, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (2009). Providing relief from the quartet’s continual internecine squabbling and self-analysis, he trucks in Tai Li, a grubby, precociously verbal 5-year-old orphan who also happens to be telepathic. (Just to even the playing field a bit, the bad guys get a telepath too.) Series fans will know to be patient in wading through all the angst, arguments, and flurries of significant nose-tapping (occasionally in unison), for when the main action does at long last get under way—the five don’t even set out from Mr. Benedict’s mansion together until more than halfway through—the Society returns to Nomansan Island (get it?), the site of their first mission, for chases, narrow squeaks, hastily revised stratagems, and heroic exploits that culminate in a characteristically byzantine whirl of climactic twists, triumphs, and revelations. Except for brown-skinned George and olive-complected, presumably Asian-descended Tai, the central cast defaults to white; Reynie’s adoptive mother is South Asian.

Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45264-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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