A fun and funny follow-up that celebrates the magic of family and community.

THE UNBELIEVABLE OLIVER AND THE SAWED-IN-HALF DADS

From the Unbelievable Oliver series , Vol. 2

Budding magician Oliver and his twin pals Teenie and Bea are back, three months after their inaugural adventures in The Unbelievable Oliver and the Four Jokers (2019).

Readers meet them at a cake testing. The twins’ dads, Yale Drama School graduate and writer Simon and photographer/florist Miguel, are getting married. In the age of out and married politicians running for the presidency, the nuptials are treated matter-of-factly as a milieu for this lighthearted sequel even as the news shocks Oliver because he assumed the dads were already hitched. The ever supportive dads, at their daughters’ insistence, ask Oliver both to be a ring bearer and to entertain the guests at the rehearsal brunch. Of course, Oliver, prodded by the girls and with the help of his talking bunny, Benny, and his cousin Spencer, must elevate his repertoire, so he decides on the titular illusion. The boy magician pulls off the sleight of hand, to his, the twins’, and the guests’ delight...until one of the dads goes missing. With tongue stuffed in his cheek, Bosch builds the silliness with total seriousness, and forces of nature Bea and Teenie make delightful foils for the earnest, slightly anxious Oliver. Pangburn’s cartoons help the text along, depicting all three kids with darker-than-white skin (Oliver is Jewish and the twins, Mexican American) and adding generous dollops of additional humor. Trick instructions are appended.

A fun and funny follow-up that celebrates the magic of family and community. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55235-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence.

THE LAND OF ROAR

From the Land of Roar series , Vol. 1

A fantasy world comes to life and lures its young creators back into it in this imaginative middle-grade debut and U.K. import.

Narrator Arthur always loved playing make-believe in Grandad’s attic with his twin sister, Rose. Years ago they dreamed up Roar, a magical land that they entered via an old fold-up cot that acted as a portal. Now that they are 11 and starting school at Langdon Academy, Rose has new friends and wants nothing to do with her brother or their imaginary world. Rose may be done with Roar, but it’s not finished with her. When their grandfather is kidnapped and taken into Roar, Arthur and Rose must team up to mount a rescue mission. McLachlan does an excellent job of establishing the sibling tension before introducing the fantasy elements, and Rose’s desire to grow up and fit in feels as familiar and accessible as Arthur’s yearning to remain a child. While obviously reminiscent of classic fantasy, this narrative’s sheer inventiveness marks it as distinct. The twins’ widowed grandfather, a larger-than-life jokester from Mauritius, is a Peter Pan–like figure whose abduction brings the narrative into Roar, allowing the text and Mantle’s illustrations to go wild with creativity. The use of a wordless double-page spread to depict Arthur’s arrival into the fantasy realm is particularly inventive. Arthur and Rose are depicted as kids of color.

A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298271-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure.

CITY SPIES

From the City Spies series , Vol. 1

This thriller reads like Miss Congeniality meets Kingsman, starring Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Anishinaabe-kwe water protector Autumn Peltier…kind of.

Puerto Rican–born, Brooklyn-raised Sara isn’t expecting much from her court-appointed lawyer—she has no reason to put faith in the system that put her in jail after she hacked into the city’s computers to expose her foster parents as abusive frauds. But with juvie her only other prospect, Sara takes a leap and agrees to a wild proposition: She’ll join Britain’s MI6 as a kid operative. When she arrives at the covert facility in Scotland, she meets the other kids the MI6 agent, a white Englishman affectionately called Mother, has taken in—all of them, like Sara, have highly developed skills in logic, puzzles, sneakiness, and other useful spy tactics. Mother has a mission for them; he’s taking them to Paris to a competition for youth environmental innovation, where their job is to perform just well enough to make it into the top 10 so they can protect the eccentric billionaire sponsor of the contest from an imminent threat. It’s a fun romp with timely but superficial things to say about environmental activism, though the recruitment process and messy organization stretches the imagination even with a hardy suspension of disbelief. For a spy story, it’s surprisingly interior focused rather than action packed. The cast is technically diverse in ethnic background, but this has next to no influence on the characters.

It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1491-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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