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


From the Jimi & Isaac Books series

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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This delightful debut welcomes readers in like a house filled with love.


A 13-year-old biracial girl longs to build the house of her dreams.

For Lou Bulosan-Nelson, normal is her “gigantic extended family squished into Lola’s for every holiday imaginable.” She shares a bedroom with her Filipina mother, Minda—a former interior-design major and current nurse-to-be—in Lola Celina’s San Francisco home. From her deceased white father, Michael, Lou inherited “not-so-Filipino features,” his love for architecture, and some land. Lou’s quietude implies her keen eye for details, but her passion for creating with her hands resonates loudly. Pining for something to claim as her own, she plans to construct a house from the ground up. When her mom considers moving out of state for a potential job and Lou’s land is at risk of being auctioned off, Lou stays resilient, gathering support from both friends and family to make her dream a reality. Respicio authentically depicts the richness of Philippine culture, incorporating Filipino language, insights into Lou’s family history, and well-crafted descriptions of customs, such as the birdlike Tinikling dance and eating kamayan style (with one’s hands), throughout. Lou’s story gives voice to Filipino youth, addressing cultural differences, the importance of bayanihan (community), and the true meaning of home.

This delightful debut welcomes readers in like a house filled with love. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1794-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.


An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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