A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A decent start to a silly sci-fi series.

ALIEN SUPERSTAR

From the Alien Superstar series , Vol. 1

An extraterrestrial teen refugee becomes a Hollywood star.

Citizen Short Nose, a 13-year-old, blue-skinned, six-eyed, bipedal ET, has left his home world in an effort to escape the authoritarian forces that reign there. The teen runaway lands his spacecraft in the middle of Universal Studios and easily blends in among the tourists and actors in movie costumes. Citizen Short Nose quickly changes his name to Buddy C. Burger and befriends Luis Rivera, an 18-year-old Latinx actor who moonlights as Frankenstein on the Universal lot. Inspired to be an actor by his grandmother Wrinkle’s love of Earth culture, Buddy lands a gig on Oddball Academy, playing (of course) an alien from another world. On set, Buddy befriends Cassidy Cambridge, the brown-skinned teen star of the show. Buddy balances keeping his true identity secret (everyone just assumes he’s wearing an alien costume) with becoming an overnight sensation. The book is efficiently written, moving the story forward so quickly that readers won’t have time to think too hard about the bizarre circumstances necessary for the whole thing to work. This series opener’s big problem is the ending: The story just stops. Characters are established and plot mechanics are put together, but the book basically trusts readers to show up for the next installment. Those enamored with Hollywood gags and sci-fi plot boiling will probably be engaged enough to do so.

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3369-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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