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Joyfully captures an all-consuming passion for an intriguing niche interest.

Puzzle cubes challenge a cast of determined contenders in a tense national competition.

Twelve-year-old Tyler Gooden loves solving his Rubik’s Cube. After his dad died three years ago, he felt adrift until he found this gift from his father, set aside years before. The mental aerobics and motor dexterity that cube-solving required gave him a sense of focus. So begins the story of Tyler’s determined journey to the national championship, sponsored by Cube-Mania. He can’t afford to attend, but Cube-Mania founder and CEO Victor Chen recognizes his “remarkable ability” and offers a surprise sponsorship. As the competition begins, Tyler meets a crew of fellow cubers, including “cubing prodigy” Eli Newton and his overbearing dad, twin sensations Lizzy and Izzy Peterson, world record holder Dirk Speedman, and the elderly Miles Wizzinski, the first great cuber of the 1980s, whose efforts have resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome. The story’s slightly stilted present-tense language will make readers feel as though they’re reading the novelization of a competition documentary (think The Speed Cubers or the Scrabble-focused Word Wars). Gamers’ backstories combine with play-by-play scenes of puzzles being solved, shocking twists, and some well-earned victories. Colorful graphic novel panel interludes bring to life the drama of gameplay—it’s hard to look away from this delightfully hyperfocused tale. Most characters present white; Tyler is of Filipino descent, the Peterson twins are Black, and Victor Chen is cued Asian.

Joyfully captures an all-consuming passion for an intriguing niche interest. (Fiction/graphic hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593531907

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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