An absurdist detective story that will leave readers with plenty to smile about.

ZERO TO HERO

From the Timmy Failure series

After a completed seven-volume saga and a feature-film adaptation from the Academy Award–winning director of Spotlight, the Timmy Failure franchise has only one way to go: the prequel route.

Fans eager to know the exact circumstances of the first time Timmy and his polar bear partner, Total, meet or the proper origins of Total Failure Inc. will be delighted by this tale of Timmy’s humble origins, narrated with Timmy’s usual aplomb and occasionally punctuated by best friend Rollo’s exasperated footnotes. Newcomers will find plenty to enjoy as well. The absurd wit Pastis pumped into previous Timmy Failure books is in full supply here, offering silly asides and LOL–worthy sight gags on nearly every page. Timmy’s exasperating nature may wear on some readers, but Pastis is smart to sprinkle just enough hints at why Timmy is the way he is that patient new readers will see just enough of the sweet underbelly this series usually offers. The book is a bit unevenly paced, with a chunky middle, but readers looking to spend a bit more time with Timmy’s delusions of grandeur won’t mind. Timmy’s world remains an apparently all-white one.

An absurdist detective story that will leave readers with plenty to smile about. (Comic mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-06511-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure.

CITY SPIES

From the City Spies series , Vol. 1

This thriller reads like Miss Congeniality meets Kingsman, starring Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Anishinaabe-kwe water protector Autumn Peltier…kind of.

Puerto Rican–born, Brooklyn-raised Sara isn’t expecting much from her court-appointed lawyer—she has no reason to put faith in the system that put her in jail after she hacked into the city’s computers to expose her foster parents as abusive frauds. But with juvie her only other prospect, Sara takes a leap and agrees to a wild proposition: She’ll join Britain’s MI6 as a kid operative. When she arrives at the covert facility in Scotland, she meets the other kids the MI6 agent, a white Englishman affectionately called Mother, has taken in—all of them, like Sara, have highly developed skills in logic, puzzles, sneakiness, and other useful spy tactics. Mother has a mission for them; he’s taking them to Paris to a competition for youth environmental innovation, where their job is to perform just well enough to make it into the top 10 so they can protect the eccentric billionaire sponsor of the contest from an imminent threat. It’s a fun romp with timely but superficial things to say about environmental activism, though the recruitment process and messy organization stretches the imagination even with a hardy suspension of disbelief. For a spy story, it’s surprisingly interior focused rather than action packed. The cast is technically diverse in ethnic background, but this has next to no influence on the characters.

It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1491-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more