Having kept Idaville crime free “for more than a year”—more like 44 years, to be precise—the still-ten-year-old Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown takes on ten more scams, misdemeanors and outright felonies. Whether dealing with the theft of various precious items (including an autographed baseball from a case that is, literally, cracked) or the efforts of high-school dropout Wilford Wiggins and ne’er-do-well bully Bugs Meany to cheat local children out of their hard-earned savings, the precocious preteen unfailingly delivers the revealing question or significant fact that forces a confession. Only readers well enough informed to know how the author of Alice in Wonderland spelled his pseudonym, or attentive enough to spot the tiny slip in a suspect’s story, will keep up—all others can look to the answers in the back. That’s a formula that still works after more than a generation. (art not seen) (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-525-47924-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.


From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A move to the South Carolina countryside brings two unlikely African-American characters together in an ever-deepening friendship that has more consequence than one of them can foretell. Ten-year-old Sylvia Freeman, new to this country road with only three houses, befriends Miz Lula Maye, who is almost 100 years old. Told in Sylvia’s first-person voice, the story reveals a burgeoning fondness between the two, as they spend more and more time together. Despite her age, Lula Maye shares the child’s sense of vivacity and engagement with life. Sylvia, never the dispassionate observer, offers her editorial comments on everything. Most of this is delightful, but debut novelist Flood sometimes has the girl slip from a little girl’s vernacular to a more knowledgeable narrator’s voice, with words like “savory,” or constructions like “As I drifted off into a much needed and deserved sleep.” Meanwhile, the pair’s friendship takes an unexpected turn one morning after Sylvia spends the night at Lula’s, only to find a strange man staying with her momma. It turns out that blood is thicker than tearful water when all is revealed at church that day. Sylvia’s world is temporarily turned upside down, but friendship wins out after all. This story is more complicated than the narrative first suggests and too much must be explained at the end—its abruptness maybe because the momma character has not been developed enough to foreshadow the revelations of the story. Or perhaps, because more of Sylvia’s adventures are planned and the author was concentrating too much on introducing the major recurring characters. Marshall’s pencil drawings dramatically complement this pivotal moment in a young girl’s life. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87614-204-8

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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