THE COLOSSUS OF ROADS

Los Angeles’ infamous traffic scene is a hot mess, and it’s up to 11-year-old Rick Rusek to fix it.

Deep in the San Fernando Valley lives the audacious young problem-solver, poring over maps of LA’s highways and streets to diagnose a way to unclog the county’s traffic woes. Ironically, Rick can’t bear car trips due to an unrelenting case of motion sickness. Just ask his chatty stomach, a cheeseburger-obsessed conversationalist that helps Rick with unknotting the trickiest of ideas. Rick’s chats with his stomach offer one source of reassurance after he finds out that his parents’ catering business, Smotch (roots: Polish food), risks falling into financial troubles due in part to LA’s notorious traffic flow. Convinced that his Snarl Solutions could help alleviate his parents’ problems if only someone in power would listen, Rick joins his neighbor’s Girl Scout group, led by a celebrated street artist with familial ties to the head of LA’s Department of Transportation. Can the “Colossus of Roads” save his parents’ business and lead LA toward a brighter future? Uss’ slice of whimsy teleports readers to the smog-filled, congested streets of Los Angeles and gives them a hearty appreciation for big, improbable ideas. Thanks to a fun cast of eclectic characters, the author manages to temper the story’s more peculiar moments, but it’s her soft mix of humor and insight that steals the spotlight. Though Rick’s neighbors are Latinx, the book’s default seems to be white.

Colossally cool. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4450-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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