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From the Jimi & Isaac Books series

A lively narrative that ably combines rocket science, humor, and relatable characters.

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In this continuation of a middle-grade series, a middle schooler weathers setbacks and self-doubt in his quest to build a working Mars probe.

Mr. Berg, who takes guitar lessons from young Jimi’s dad, is a wealthy entrepreneur whose private aerospace company plans to send an astronaut into orbit around the Earth. When Jimi’s brainy best friend, Isaac, brags that building a small Mars probe would be no big deal, Jimi shrugs assent, so Mr. Berg calls their bluff. He gives the pair the basic criteria for the probe’s function, size, and weight, supplies them with funds, and names a deadline. If they succeed, he says, he’ll launch their probe from his orbiting rocket. Isaac takes the lead in the probe’s design but soon loses interest. When circumstances prod Jimi into seeing the project through, what began as a slapdash creation of cardboard and tape becomes a full-fledged science-fair project, and then a feasible, 3-D blueprint for a working probe. The novel relates this evolution in detail, framing the narrative as a scientific process of research, application, discussion, modification, and refinement. But Rink (Jimi and Isaac 2a: Keystone Species, 2014, etc.), a mechanical engineer, science-fair leader, and sports coach for kids, takes care that there’s nothing pedantic about Jimi’s bumpy ride to launch day. The soccer-playing, saxophone-playing, jazz-loving middle schooler observes his world with an authentic, humorous first-person voice. Jimi’s epiphany rings true when he’s struck by the fact that his fellow science-fair competitors have done “stuff that I never thought a kid could do,” that adults are interested in what they have to say, and that no one “told anybody to shut up all day.” As he sifts through research, his own and others’ “crazy ideas” and his sudden, “weird” leaps of insight, Rink’s message to readers is clear: that questions, mistakes, and a willingness to keep trying in the face of failure are integral to problem-solving and innovation—and that kids can be innovators, too.

A lively narrative that ably combines rocket science, humor, and relatable characters. 

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4563-0319-8

Page Count: 134

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Though told by two outsiders to the culture, this timely and well-crafted story will educate readers on the preciousness of...

An international story tackles a serious global issue with Reynolds’ characteristic visual whimsy.

Gie Gie—aka Princess Gie Gie—lives with her parents in Burkina Faso. In her kingdom under “the African sky, so wild and so close,” she can tame wild dogs with her song and make grass sway, but despite grand attempts, she can neither bring the water closer to home nor make it clean. French words such as “maintenant!” (now!) and “maman” (mother) and local color like the karite tree and shea nuts place the story in a French-speaking African country. Every morning, Gie Gie and her mother perch rings of cloth and large clay pots on their heads and walk miles to the nearest well to fetch murky, brown water. The story is inspired by model Georgie Badiel, who founded the Georgie Badiel Foundation to make clean water accessible to West Africans. The details in Reynolds’ expressive illustrations highlight the beauty of the West African landscape and of Princess Gie Gie, with her cornrowed and beaded hair, but will also help readers understand that everyone needs clean water—from the children of Burkina Faso to the children of Flint, Michigan.

Though told by two outsiders to the culture, this timely and well-crafted story will educate readers on the preciousness of potable water. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17258-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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From the Questioneers series , Vol. 2

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book.

Ada Twist’s incessant stream of questions leads to answers that help solve a neighborhood crisis.

Ada conducts experiments at home to answer questions such as, why does Mom’s coffee smell stronger than Dad’s coffee? Each answer leads to another question, another hypothesis, and another experiment, which is how she goes from collecting data on backyard birds for a citizen-science project to helping Rosie Revere figure out how to get her uncle Ned down from the sky, where his helium-filled “perilous pants” are keeping him afloat. The Questioneers—Rosie the engineer, Iggy Peck the architect, and Ada the scientist—work together, asking questions like scientists. Armed with knowledge (of molecules and air pressure, force and temperature) but more importantly, with curiosity, Ada works out a solution. Ada is a recognizable, three-dimensional girl in this delightfully silly chapter book: tirelessly curious and determined yet easily excited and still learning to express herself. If science concepts aren’t completely clear in this romp, relationships and emotions certainly are. In playful full- and half-page illustrations that break up the text, Ada is black with Afro-textured hair; Rosie and Iggy are white. A closing section on citizen science may inspire readers to get involved in science too; on the other hand, the “Ode to a Gas!” may just puzzle them. Other backmatter topics include the importance of bird study and the threat palm-oil use poses to rainforests.

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3422-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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