Satisfying and life affirming: a perfect thing in the universe of juvenile fiction.


Loah’s been left—again—in the care of the elderly Rinkers while her mother is on an Arctic expedition.

A determined homebody, 11-year-old Loah doesn’t enjoy her mother’s long, sometimes perilous journeys. This one’s been unexpectedly extended since her mom, an ornithologist, believes she’s spotted a loah bird, the very rare animal for which Loah was named. Stiff, seemingly unemotional Miss Rinker and her brother, gentle, bumbling Theo, are nice enough, but they are inadequate substitutes for a mother who is so deeply engaged in her professional life. When Loah befriends Ellis (or L.S., whose real name is Little Squirrel), a girl just as deeply in need of TLC as Loah, it puts into motion a series of tender gestures. One lovingly crafted character after another (most seemingly White) reaches out to offer unexpected, desperately needed support, demonstrating a remarkable chain of interconnectedness. As Loah’s mother had said, “All living creatures depended on one another in ways big and small.” With mysterious noises emanating from Loah’s crumbling home’s turret, Ellis’ seemingly monstrous grandfather, a threatening, busybody home inspector, and a suspenseful accident in the Arctic, there is plenty to keep readers engaged in this heartfelt exploration of goodness. Never-intrusive environmental lessons are an added bonus.

Satisfying and life affirming: a perfect thing in the universe of juvenile fiction. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4757-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.


Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Not your typical kid-with-cancer book.


A rare form of cancer takes its toll in this novel based on the author’s experience.

Seventh grader Ross Maloy wants nothing more than to be an average middle schooler, hanging out with his best friends, Abby and Isaac, avoiding the school bully, and crushing on the popular girl. There’s just one thing keeping Ross from being completely ordinary: the rare form of eye cancer that’s reduced him to the kid with cancer at school. Ross’ eye is closed in a permanent wink, and he constantly wears a cowboy hat to protect his eyes. The doctors are hopeful that Ross will be cancer free after treatment, but his vision will be impaired, and the treatments cause him to lose his hair and require the application of a particularly goopy ointment. This isn’t a cancer book built upon a foundation of prayer, hope, and life lessons. The driving force here is Ross’ justifiable anger. Ross is angry at the anonymous kids making hurtful memes about him and at Isaac for abandoning him when he needs a friend most. Ross funnels his feelings into learning how to play guitar, hoping to make a splash at the school’s talent show. The author balances this anger element well against the typical middle-grade tropes. Misunderstood bully? Check. Well-meaning parents? Check. While some of these elements will feel familiar, the novel’s emotional climax remains effectively earned. Characters are paper-white in Harrell’s accompanying cartoons.

Not your typical kid-with-cancer book. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1514-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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