Bright, pleasant sci-fi for kids.

READ REVIEW

The Boys of Earth-180

In Samuelson’s debut novel, two young cousins—levelheaded Nick and rambunctious Sid, both sons of elite astronauts and both students at the Junior Astronaut Academy near the town of Waterbeach—blast off into adventure in the not-too-distant future.

The boys’ fathers, who left on a secret and very dangerous mission into deep space, have gone missing. Nick and Sid race out into the void with the newly built spaceship Destiny Copernicus 2 to try to find the vanished astronauts and help them complete their vital mission. Along the way, they face plenty of excitement and colorful dangers, from Nick’s crush on Veronica Appleyard, niece of the National Space Institute’s commanding officer, to the misadventures of wild Sid and the strange wonders of an unknown planet orbiting directly opposite Earth—“Earth-180.” The two kids go from cadets to explorers, making contact with a strange alien race they call Orangies—both friendly and rogue—and use brains and brawn to help save the day. The upbeat, charming book has a straightforward plot that keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish. Characters are simple but sympathetic, with a level of development to make them distinguishable and entertaining. There’s just enough romance to add zest to the narrative, too. The science is lightweight and not fit for this world. For instance, after spending time with the Orangies, a flummoxed professor writes: “How the Orangies harness gravity to their will, I cannot say, and I should not presume I could ever understand. Based on my time with them, I now believe gravity is faster than light—that it is instantaneous—and distance, however great, offers no obstacle to it.” The counter-Earth concept is classic sci-fi, but here, for a change, it’s not a dystopia or a war story. Text is remarkably clean in copy editing and proofreading, with nary a typo, while a bit of bathroom humor and light swearing might appeal to preteen sensibilities. Plus, there’s more to come: this is just the first book in a planned series.

Bright, pleasant sci-fi for kids.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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