Fast, funny episodes featuring creative takes on close-to-reality science.

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THE FLINKWATER FACTOR

From the Flinkwater Chronicles series , Vol. 1

Hautman’s latest features wacky adventures in a near-future small town packed with engineers.

Flinkwater, Iowa, is a small town where most residents—like narrator Ginger’s parents—work in some capacity for a tech company that makes robots. Smart but smarter-mouthed, sarcastic, and high-spirited Ginger recounts five loosely connected episodes in an engagingly conversational tone. First, Flinkwater residents are “bonking” themselves into catatonia while using their tablets and computers. As the naturally curious engineers all bonk themselves in checking it out, Ginger and boy genius Billy must solve the mystery and cure the town. The second story involves smuggling an escaped lab animal to safety, a sad-looking dog with a collar that broadcasts his thoughts as speech. The third finds Ginger’s hilariously awkward quest for a first kiss juxtaposed against a light nanotechnology subplot. The fourth and fifth build directly upon each other: in these, the Department of Homeland Security—annoying but till this point harmless and on the scene since bonking emerged as a security threat in the first episode—takes a turn as villain in a convoluted evil scheme; it has high stakes and delightful twists, but it unravels too easily. The book ends with a “where are they now”–style afterword and a parsing of the book’s science from its fantasy elements.

Fast, funny episodes featuring creative takes on close-to-reality science. (Science fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3251-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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