CLASS ACTION

More amusing than your average civics class.

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. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

THE BOY IN THE OAK

Physically slender but long on mystical atmosphere, Albarn’s debut features a mix of feathery line portraits and translucent leaves of pale, reworked photos of butterfly-wing and other natural patterns. They illustrate a short, formally told tale of Faerie retribution and redemption. In the first part, a bored, malicious lad tries to set fire to a Druidic Oak near his parents’ cottage and is embedded within the wood by angry sprites. Years later, when the Faeries try to do the same to a young girl whose parents plan to cut the tree down, the boy saves her and is released for showing compassion. The elevated language is nowhere near as polished as the pictures: “The boy awoke with a thud to his heart”; “He twisted with anxiety, wretched with his own memories and shameful of his past.” The special paper adds a misty, magical air to the page turns, however, and the insectile, sharp-tempered Faeries inject a needed thread of animation. Will tempt fans of the Spiderwick series and all things Faerie. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-897476-52-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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THE HANNAH CHRONICLES

THE ADVENTURES OF HANNAH HADLEY, GIRL SPY: THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR

A familiar story skillfully reimagined for today’s gadget-savvy youth.

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Hannah Hadley is a young special agent who must thwart a clear and present danger to the United States in Hoover’s “smart is cool” young adult novel.

Hannah Hadley might seem like most 13-year-old girls. She enjoys painting, playing with her MP3 player and spending time with friends. But that’s where the similarities end. Hadley doubles as Agent 10-1, among the youngest spies drafted into the CIA’s Div Y department. She’s joined in her missions by her 10-pound Shih Tzu, Kiwi (with whom she communicates telepathically), and her best friend Tommie Claire, a blind girl with heightened senses. When duty calls, the group sneaks to a hidden command center located under the floor of Hadley’s art studio. Her current mission, aptly named “Operation Farmer Jones,” takes her to a secluded farmhouse in Canada. There, al-Qaida terrorists have gathered the necessary ingredients for a particularly devastating nuclear warhead that they intend to fire into America. The villains are joined by the Mad Madam of Mayhem, a physicist for hire whom the terrorists force to complete the weapon of mass destruction. With Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond series and the ongoing 39 Clues novellas, covert missions and secret plans are the plots of choice in much of today’s fiction for young readers, and references to the famed 007 stories abound in Hoover’s tale. But while the plot feels familiar, Hoover’s use of modern slang—albeit strained at times—and gadgets such as the iTouch appeal to today’s youth. Placing girls in adult situations has been a mainstay since Mildred Wirt Benson first introduced readers to Nancy Drew in The Secret of the Old Clock, but Hannah Hadley is like Nancy Drew on steroids. Both are athletic, score well in their studies and have a measure of popularity. Hadley, however, displays a genius-level intellect and near superhuman abilities in her efforts to roust the terrorists—handy skills for a young teen spy who just so happens to get the best grades in school.

A familiar story skillfully reimagined for today’s gadget-savvy youth.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0615419688

Page Count: 239

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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