A fresh take on a hero’s journey that all kids will enjoy.


Davis’ lively YA debut introduces a courageous boy who discovers that you can’t run away from your past, especially when it’s in your blood.

Buddy’s mother died in a car accident after a heated fight with her drunken father, Sebastian. Ten years later, the incident—complete with visions of the old man hurling “half-breed” and “mongrel” epithets—still haunts 13-year-old Buddy, his older brother and their bear-tracking “phD Dad,” even though the three moved to the Alaskan bush to escape the disturbing memories. Eventually, a letter arrives from Sebastian, now sober and looking to make amends. At first, Buddy’s reticent, too bitter and confused to accept his grandfather’s entreaty, but he eventually goes back to Montana to spend the summer on the Flathead Indian Reservation. When asked what he’d like to be called, Buddy tells Sebastian, “Call me James, like people that don’t know me.” But as time passes and the two bond over their respect for nature and a love of fishing, Buddy capitulates and begins to enjoy his time with the Native American side of his family and his newfound friends, including cute, redheaded Emerry and “careless,” misunderstood Dave. As a hot, dry July encroaches, wildfires force an evacuation, and the sudden disappearance of Emerry calls for Buddy and Dave to become men. In Buddy, Davis has created a convincing, winning narrator whose voice captures the inequities and insecurities of childhood. His reflections on nature conjure a touching reverence for the unspoiled Northwest, and his first encounter with Emerry humorously engages the reader while setting up the book’s delightful leitmotif: Buddy’s recurring dreams, seemingly infiltrated by spirit animals who warn of impending danger and heighten the book’s growing tension. In another clever device, Buddy desires to increase his vocabulary, choosing a new word each month and using it whenever he can. In the spirit of his self-imposed lesson plan, this “superb” novel is “risible” and full of characters with “tenacious” hearts.

A fresh take on a hero’s journey that all kids will enjoy.  

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462016150

Page Count: 112

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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