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Wonderfully imaginative with just a touch of earnestness.

When Nick Spirakis spots Frosty the polar bear in the alley behind his house, he knows that the summer of 1948 will not be tranquil.

Nick, the son of Greek immigrants, lives in Wisconsin, only a few blocks from the city zoo. His mother even mentions an episode involving an escaped monkey in 1929. But this is not the 12-year-old’s first encounter with a zoo animal, as told in The Rhino in Right Field (2018). Nick shines shoes on Saturday mornings in his Pop’s shop and works at Uncle Spiro’s frozen custard shop in the afternoons. This summer Spiro has the frozen custard concession at the zoo, and Nick and a 14-year-old boy will run the freezer cart. Nick is sure his presence at the zoo will help him and pals Ace and Penny solve the mystery of Frosty’s escape. What follows is a breathless, often hilarious, series of events. A custard war, a secret ingredient, dastardly deeds, animals behaving strangely, a bit of romance, and a stand for girls’ rights are all part of the adventures. Nick will win readers’ hearts as he narrates the tale, speaking with enthusiasm, humility, and honesty. The characters are charming, funny, and quirky, and DeKeyser seamlessly weaves in cultural references and slang expressions from the postwar period.

Wonderfully imaginative with just a touch of earnestness. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 27, 2023

ISBN: 9781665925617

Page Count: 272

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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