Stubborn and clever without being superhuman, Max is a refreshing heroine who rises above a so-so mystery.

SUPER MAX AND THE MYSTERY OF THORNWOOD'S REVENGE

Vaught (Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry, 2016, etc.) examines the limits of expectations and electrical currents.

Under the care of Toppy, her cantankerous grandfather, white, decidedly unsentimental Maxine Brennan is working off a grounding by critiquing sentimental movies and modifying the electronics on her motorized wheelchair. When a hacker threatens Toppy and the town of Blue Creek, Tennessee, with the legendary “Thornwood’s Revenge,” 12-year-old Max channels her favorite comic-book superheroes and vows to save the day. High-tech jargon and spooky-old-house trappings collide as Max explores the home and history of the late Hargrove Thornwood, the legendary town villain. Meanwhile, Max must control her temper and face her estranged mother. The characters’ small-town familiarity and police chief Toppy’s ignorance of technology allow Max to handle aspects of the criminal investigation that would likely be forbidden in real life. However, such leeway also allows Max to learn the limits of her chair and herself. Max’s emotional growth creates more impact than the mystery’s resolution; the culprit is barely developed. The rift between Max and her mother resolves far less neatly; the author’s frank inclusion of the environmental and financial barriers between them highlights an often overlooked angle of disability, lending reality to the occasionally implausible proceedings.

Stubborn and clever without being superhuman, Max is a refreshing heroine who rises above a so-so mystery. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8683-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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