A devilishly rich, satisfying scientific confection.

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Radium Baby

In Karp’s debut young-adult novel, three preteens compete to prove their connection to famous scientists who died more than a decade ago.

In 1927, 13-year-old Sam Ticky lives in Claremore, Okla., also known as “Radium Town,” because the chemical element bubbles freely from the ground, like oil. He works at the radium baths, where people soak in an effort to cure themselves of ailments such as barnacles and gout—despite the fact it might possibly be dangerous. According to Sam’s adoptive father, Sam is the biological son of the well-known scientists Alexander and Valerie Pepperpot, who gave him up after they died; as a result, science is his heritage. Meanwhile, in New York, Clive Chapman ponders the fate of his Sun Studios Radio Corporation. Ratings are falling, even on his most popular shows, and he needs something brilliant to turn his business around. When the U.S. government asks for his help in finding the Pepperpots’ missing child, he dreams up a contest. Soon, Sam is competing against two other finalists who share his birthday, Gloria Noakes and Hadrian Sands. The prize: the Pepperpots’ estate. The contestants must solve a series of puzzles staged in China, Egypt and Boston as they try to provide proof of the identity of  the real “Radium Baby.” Throughout this adventure novel, Karp’s madcap imagination keeps readers hungering for the final outcome, and his prose sparkles with his flair for the absurd: For example, the Pepperpots “invented the hamster wheel, the hamster cage and the hamster feeder, then rounded off their list of achievements by inventing the hamster.” The contest’s puzzles, which involve such diverse elements as hornets’ honey and the Eye of Tutankhamen, have surprise twists, but Karp isn’t merely a showman. He’s also capable of dreamily evocative scene-setting (“Everything hit [Sam] at once...the temples with roofs like dog-eared paper, [and the] fine statues and filigree metalwork tracing spider webs across the walls and ceilings”) and manages to end his tale on a truly profound note.

A devilishly rich, satisfying scientific confection.

Pub Date: April 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989263009

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Remora House

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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