Though it attempts Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it achieves lengthy science report. Skippable.

ON A SCALE FROM IDIOT TO COMPLETE JERK

Can a scientific study explain jerk-ish behavior, and will it earn J.J. a passing grade?

After establishing that jerks existed in prehistory using cave paintings and throughout history using folk tales and children’s literature, eighth-grader J.J. Murphy explains the need for a scientific study of jerk-ishness and delineates the methods he’ll use, like “looking at things in a sciencey way.” He explains (kind of) general science terms as well as his own study-specific jargon and creates a scale he calls the Jerk-O-Meter, which runs from “normal” through “idiot” to “complete jerk”; he includes a nice scientific illustration of the meter. He then goes on to pose scientific questions: Can young children be jerks? Can the really, really old be jerks? (Only 6-year-olds and up, and definitely yes, respectively). He examines jerks in the family, in sports, in school and in the professional world to reach the conclusion that jerks have always existed and always will and that we can use scientific studies to identify and avoid jerks and their jerk-ishness. Canadian Hughes’ debut is constructed around the conceit that it is the actual science project that J.J. turns in. Though his voice rings true, the device wears thin quickly. With no through story to sustain it or continuing characters beyond the narrator, it’s an occasionally amusing collection of anecdotes.

Though it attempts Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it achieves lengthy science report. Skippable. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0484-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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

NUMBER THE STARS

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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