A lively, inviting introduction sure to win fans.

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SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DISAPPEARING DIAMOND

From the Baker Street Academy series , Vol. 1

Sherlock Holmes and friends are recast as modern kids at the Baker Street Academy.

New student John Watson quickly befriends fellow students assertive Martha Hudson and enigmatic Sherlock Holmes. While the main characters are white, there are secondary characters of color. Once John settles in, he starts a blog in which he writes and illustrates his stories about life at the school. The plot starts in earnest when a museum field trip is interrupted by a flash mob and an unsuccessful robbery—but when the diamond recovered from the would-be thief is revealed to be a fake, it has both authorities and kids wondering where the real Alpine Star is. Thoughtful formatting balances prose with illustrations, comic-book panels, and snippets of newspapers or online news websites, enhancing the energy and pace. It also plants the occasional red herring and helps to obscure the villain for readers who aren’t familiar with the name Moriarty and are just learning the conventions of comic-book villains. The cartoon illustrations evoke personality effectively, most noticeably in interludes with adorable Baskerville the hound and presenting Sherlock and James Moriarty with contrasting visual codes: Sherlock is rounded, whereas Moriarty and his dark trench (to counter the light one Sherlock wears) are spiky to denote foul intent. With such engaging art, it’s a shame that the visual clues that lead Sherlock to his deductions are not present for keen-eyed readers to make their own inferences; they must wait for Sherlock’s explanations along with the rest of the cast.

A lively, inviting introduction sure to win fans. (Graphic/mystery hybrid. 7-11)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-19315-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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