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BIGGEST SECRET EVER!

From the Middle School and Other Disasters series , Vol. 3

Fun middle school antics with a dollop of light magic and considerations of loyalty.

Heidi Heckelbeck is a witch and first-year student at Broomfield Academy, a boarding school that educates magical and nonmagical kids alike.

Heidi’s an ordinary tween, concerned with clothes, friendships, crushes (currently on Nick Lee, who’s not in the School of Magic), and her tenuous relationship with Melanie, her often-mean “broommate” and acquaintance from home. She’s also excited about learning witchcraft and is pleased to receive private magic lessons from Mrs. Kettledrum. Her teacher instructs her in calming meditation techniques as a prelude to mind-reading and emergency spells. Sometimes Heidi writes spells enthusiastically but incorrectly, however, with unintended consequences. She also faces a difficult decision about revealing a big secret about new friend Isabelle. Heidi pushes the boundaries of appropriate behavior (both in the real world and the magical one) and must think hard about self-discipline. Breezy and fun, this volume will satisfy devotees who have enjoyed following this engaging character since she was in elementary school, with each entry slowly but surely moving up in complexity as Heidi grows and becomes a little more serious. Her latest adventures are delivered with the usual humorous grayscale illustrations and fonts that vary in size and style, moving the story along quickly. The volume will entice new fans, welcome reluctant readers, and please those who have been awaiting Heidi’s latest exploits. Isabelle reads Black; other central characters are cued white.

Fun middle school antics with a dollop of light magic and considerations of loyalty. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781665948340

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Spotlight

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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NUMBER THE STARS

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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