With solid science and believable family conflicts, this will be very satisfying to readers whose wishful thinking can...

THE JAMIE DRAKE EQUATION

Sixth-grader Jamie Drake has an alien on his cellphone and his parents are splitting up. What more could go wrong?

This middle-grade science-fiction title, first published in England, is reminiscent of the most engaging early Heinlein stories in which realistic boys face traditional problems in a futuristic setting. Here, Jamie’s father, an astronaut on the International Space Station, is preparing to launch a series of probes to Tau Ceti, a nearby star system known to have orbiting planets in the habitable zone (true fact). Jamie, however, has complicated feelings about his famous father, gracefully expressed in Jamie’s candid narration. He’s proud, of course, to have the world focused on his father’s actions—there’s even a video interview at an all-school assembly—but he’d also rather have him home in England for his birthday and to patch up the growing rift in his family. Then the unhappy boy happens upon an astronomer who’s hacked into the Hubble Telescope for her own search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Attempting to charge his phone on her computer, Jamie accidentally intercepts a transmission and captures the Hi’ive. Then there’s a solar flare. His father may be stranded in space. Jamie’s emotions are totally accessible even though his circumstances fall significantly outside the norm. The book assumes a white default.

With solid science and believable family conflicts, this will be very satisfying to readers whose wishful thinking can suspend disbelief. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1361-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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