A lightweight but enjoyable read.

CLARA VOYANT

After her grandmother’s move to Florida, future investigative reporter Clara Costa finds life with just her ditzy mother, Gaby, maddeningly unpredictable.

Now Clara and Gaby live in Toronto’s lively, diverse Kensington Market neighborhood in an apartment above Healing Herbs. There, Gaby diagnoses ills and dispenses unscientific remedies. Clara misses her grandmother’s practical, predictable ways. On the bright side, Clara’s bonded with classmate Maeve, a budding actress who’s appreciative of Clara’s colorful, chaotic home. Clara hopes to prove herself as a reporter for the school paper, but the knitting-club profile that Wesley, the ambitious grade-eight editor, assigns Clara offers little scope for her talents. Next, Wesley wants Clara to write a horoscope column: Clara Voyant. Meanwhile, the school mascot, Buzzter the Honeybee (an aging piñata), is stolen. This mystery’s a perfect match for Clara’s investigative talents, but skeptic Clara is stuck with astrological predictions. When these come true, she’s perplexed and intrigued. She also hunts for Buzzter, knowing it’ll be a terrific scoop if she can find him. Clara and the book’s default are white, with the abundant diversity primarily indicated through naming convention; Maeve is biracial and Chinese-Canadian. The plot hums along briskly, but the humor wobbles. At its best—Wesley’s a case in point—it’s dry, succinct, and funny, but Gaby’s more caricature than character. While the plot has amusing twists and turns, the author waffles on the existence of clairvoyance itself.

A lightweight but enjoyable read. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-14-319853-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

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. 19, 2019

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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