This series spin on the alien-next-door trope gets off to a slow start.

THE NEW KID

From the Alien Next Door series , Vol. 1

Second-grader Harris Walker’s sure something’s odd about the new kid at school, whose family has just moved in next door.

Harris has seen Zeke do impossible things, but no one else has. Meanwhile, Zeke, or Zekelabraxis, is unhappy to be starting over in a new school on a new planet. Due to his scientist parents’ research, the family moves around a lot, and Zeke misses everything about his home, Tragas. It’s hard making friends while hiding your true self. Harris’ best friend, Roxy Martinez, feels sorry for Zeke and includes him when she can, urging Harris to do the same. After a successful play day at Harris’ house, Harris is ready to be friends with Zeke…but not ready to give up trying to prove Zeke’s not of this world. Newton’s first in a series of easy chapter books is largely occupied by setup, simply establishing characters and relationships with very little plot. Mild humor is found in Zeke’s attempts to conceal his true nature, but the alternating third-person focus between Harris and Zeke blunts much of its potential. Human diversity is signaled (Harris may be black; Roxy is evidently Latina) but not explored; in his human form, Zeke appears to be white, though he’s actually fairly squidlike. Sarkar’s cartoon illustrations on every page pair well enough with the text. (Final art not seen.)

This series spin on the alien-next-door trope gets off to a slow start. (Science fiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0559-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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