From the Puzzlooies! series

This witty space adventure provides a comical setting for high-quality, entertaining, age-appropriate puzzles.

Cats! In! Spaaaaaaaace!

The Earth is about to be destroyed by an asteroid the size of a hockey rink, and with the Interplanetary Defense In Orbit Team out of commission after gorging on irradiated sweets, its only hope is the cat-stronauts. Rags, Sassy, Mittens, and Honeydew aren’t special, intelligent, talking cats; they’re merely common housecats. But they are the only available creatures with the extraordinary talents of the indisposed human astronauts, who always land on their feet, are skilled at squeezing into small spaces, and have “the same annoying habit of knocking things off of tabletops.” The joke-packed space adventure is the entertaining frame for a series of well-crafted puzzles, all but one offering a flawless solving experience. The 16 brainteasers hit a wide variety of different skill sets. A word ladder requires both definitions and letter manipulation, a kibble-themed cipher teaches basic code-breaking, and another puzzle requires simple number skills. Visual-manipulation puzzles, a crossword, a word search, and multiple mazes keep the solving process from getting dull. Puzzles draw on school skills, though the constant wisecracks keep them from feeling educational. Some answers aren’t detailed in the text, requiring a look at the answer key (which doesn’t always explain the method for finding the solution). A multiracial group of children who appear on the cover are not actually characters; the space authorities who narrate the story and recruit the cat-stronauts also appear to have a variety of racial backgrounds. (Note: Revisions made to the book after the publication of this review result in a now 100% flawless solving experience for all puzzles.)

This witty space adventure provides a comical setting for high-quality, entertaining, age-appropriate puzzles. (Science fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-57206-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021


Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011


An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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