More amusing than your average civics class.

READ REVIEW

CLASS ACTION

A love of learning does not require homework to flourish in Frank’s (Armstrong and Charlie, 2017) latest.

Sixth-grader Sam wants to build a treehouse with his dad and spend more time with his older half sister, Sadie, but instead he faces a seemingly bottomless pit of superfluous schoolwork. One more homework assignment is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, launching Sam up on his desk in protest—and subsequently into a three-day suspension. Sadie, mired in her own endless homework Hades, soon joins forces to stand up against the curricular status quo. With a crew of friends who each bring their own areas of expertise and life experience to the team, Sam, Sadie, and their curmudgeonly, retired-lawyer neighbor, Mr. Kalman, manage to take their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the process, Sam and his squad learn about civics, computer science, economics: more than any worksheet could ever hope to instill. While the pacing of their court case, from principal’s office to the highest court in the land in the span of mere months, stretches the bounds of credulity even for fiction, the story is entertaining and engaging. The characters’ example of project-based learning is likely to appeal to both educators and burned-out students. Sam and Sadie seem to be white by default, and their friends are a relatively diverse group.

More amusing than your average civics class. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-79920-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.

A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!

From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches.

QUEERFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

A GUIDE FOR LGBTQ+ CHRISTIAN TEENS

A must-read guide for all queer and questioning Christians (and their allies, too)!

Queer youth still face a multitude of challenges while growing up, and these have the potential to be amplified by religious beliefs. Addressing that issue head-on, this guide for Christians seeks to provide counsel, understanding, and gentle guidance across a series of 40-plus chapters that address everything from coming out in a variety of contexts, positive ways to deal with haters, and helping start the conversation about gender-neutral bathrooms at school, to living authentically. The book acknowledges that the advice is sometimes vague, but that’s because the spectrum of queer life is so broad. In this regard, the book excels by speaking to a range of genders and sexual identities; asexuals, nonbinary people, bisexuals, pansexuals, etc., are all addressed with respect and will find useful tips for navigating their early years. The book works better for hunt-and-peck readers as opposed to those reading from cover to cover because some of the information is repetitious, but that repetition may be necessary to counterbalance years of incorrect, inaccurate, or purposely hateful misinformation. The contributors to this fabulous read include mental health experts and religious leaders. Text boxes, pie charts, graphs, and grayscale illustrations support and enhance the main narrative.

A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches. (note on language, glossary, additional resources, sources) (Self-help. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Beaming Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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CRYSTAL CADETS

From the Crystal Cadets series , Vol. 1

On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.

This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.

Skip and pass. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-431-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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