Nine-year-old Caroline Malloy is green with envy; her ten-year-old sister, Beth, is in love. As a budding actress, Caroline wants the experience of love or tragedy just to add to her repertoire. Fans of the series about these neighbors will roll with laughter as she attempts to force Wally Hatford to fall in love with her. When a new sweater doesn’t get a wild reaction, she seeks out the juiciest valentine and signs it “Achingly yours,” with rows of X’s and O’s. The oldest sister, Eddie, thinks only about the upcoming sixth-grade science fair; for her project, she sets out to prove that boys are more gullible than girls. She capitalizes on her town’s present fear of the “abaguchie,” the nickname they’ve given to a mysterious creature that prowls around the vicinity after dark. If Eddie claimed she’d captured the abaguchie in their garage, would more boys or girls come to see it? Ever the actress, Caroline designs a fearsome abaguchie costume and the girls hand-stuff secretive invitations in their schoolmates’ pockets. Unaware of the premise, the Hatford boys are even enlisted to record the names and ages of those who attend. The results delight the girls—twice as many boys as girls show up, proving that boys are the more gullible sex. Beth’s beau, Josh Hatford, tries to deny his interest in Beth to save face with his brothers, but when he enlists the help of his youngest brother, Peter, to deliver a box of Whitman’s chocolates to Beth’s door, the results backfire. The description of Peter deftly breaking into the box to nibble and poke away at chocolate after chocolate while the girls watch in disbelief from a safe outpost will make the reader’s sides hurt. All in all, a terrific sequel to a long list of winners. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32336-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000



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


A pitch-perfect middle-grade novel that insightfully explores timely topics with authenticity and warmth.

A nuanced novel about a neurodiverse preteen’s political and social awakening by a Pura Belpré Honor–winning author.

Sixth grader Emilia Rosa Torres sometimes has a hard time keeping up with schoolwork and concentrating on one thing at a time, but her software-developer mother and superinvolved abuelita help her keep on task. Days before her father’s return to their Atlanta suburb from his most recent deployment, her mother goes on a business trip, leaving the middle schooler to juggle his mood swings, her friend troubles, and her looming assignments all on her own. When a social studies project opens her eyes to injustices past and present, Emilia begins to find her voice and use it to make an impact on her community. Writing with sensitivity and respectful complexity, Cartaya tackles weighty issues, such as immigration, PTSD, and microaggressions, through the lens of a budding tinkerer and activist who has ADHD. The members of this Cuban American family don’t all practice the same religion, with Emilia’s Catholic grandmother faithfully attending Mass multiple times a week and the protagonist’s mother celebrating her culture’s Yoruba roots with Santería. Conversations on race and gender crop up through the narrative as Emilia’s grandmother likes to emphasize her family’s European heritage—Emilia can pass as white, with her fair complexion, light eyes and auburn hair. All of these larger issues are effortlessly woven in with skill and humor, as is the Spanish her family easily mixes with English.

A pitch-perfect middle-grade novel that insightfully explores timely topics with authenticity and warmth. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-47972-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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