A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters.

NAKED MOLE RAT SAVES THE WORLD

Kit and Clem are best friends, and both are dealing with life-changing adversity.

Kit is tiny and afflicted with both alopecia universalis (a complete lack of hair that strangers interpret as a result of chemotherapy) and a dysfunctional mother who named her “kit”—not Kit—as a reminder to herself to “keep it together.” Clem, a member of her Latinx family’s acrobatic team, is badly injured during a televised performance. Once she’s recovered from the worst of her injuries, Clem endures her distress by taking on an angry goth identity that contrasts sharply with her previous image. Meanwhile, kit, who is white, copes with anxiety (mostly caused by her mother) by turning into a naked mole rat (the ugly animal her mother often compares her to) and scurrying for cover—or so she believes. The girls’ stories are presented in third-person chapters that seamlessly alternate, not only providing an intimate view of each character’s largely hidden despair, but also revealing their bemused, mostly concealed judgments of each other, as their coping mechanisms serve to drive them apart. A rich cast of secondary characters enhances the tale, including kit’s mom’s somewhat witchy helper and the young teens’ former friend, a kindly boy who has many problems of his own. An author’s note explores anxiety disorder.

A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-724-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.

CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP

This debut middle-grade fantasy sees a neglected orphan returning to the magical kingdom of her birth to face a rising evil.

Thirteen-year-old Caley Cross is the oldest child at the Gunch Home for Wayward Waifs, where she is worked like a slave and kept starved and impoverished. Caley gets on with her life as best she can, but if ever her anger is roused, she dies. Her deaths are only temporary—she revives shortly afterward—but they are linked to an innate power that causes dead animals to come alive. One day, Caley’s resurrections bring her to the attention of a metal-winged crow, whereupon she is rescued from the orphanage and taken to Erinath, a realm beyond Earth. Caley, it transpires, is the lost daughter of Queen Catherine, who disappeared shortly after the girl was born and is thought to have been killed by the nefarious Olpheist. Returned to Castle Erinath (which grows like a tree and often shifts its rooms about), Caley must adjust to her royal status—and to the relentless enmity of Ithica Blight, the vain and petty princess she’s supplanted as next in line to the throne. Ithica’s cruelties aside, there is trouble brewing in the kingdom. Castle Erinath is sickening and Olpheist is rumored to have broken free of his prison. Can Caley and her new friends sort truth from lies and keep him from laying hands on the Hadeon Drop, the ultimate source of creation and destruction? In this wildly imaginative series opener, Rosen’s storytelling overflows with creative fancy, so much so that the strong Harry Potter resonances (cruelly treated chosen one, boarding school social dynamic, Quidditch-like Equidium teams) become an unfortunate distraction from the boundless parade of whimsical characters and fantastical new material. Caley’s adventure begins in a breathless rush before settling down and building steadily to a somewhat abrupt end (and the promise of a sequel). The author’s prose is easy to read, with clear descriptions, age-appropriate dialogue, and plenty of humor. While Ithica is over-the-top and Caley and Olpheist are little distinguished from default heroes and villains, all the other characters ooze originality. All told, young readers will thrill at the sparkle of enchantment.

A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-053-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Laika’s tragic fate notwithstanding, a generally triumphant tally of liftoffs, landings, and scientific insights.

50 ANIMALS THAT HAVE BEEN TO SPACE

From the Beginner's Guide to Space series

Two Canadian authors take an unusual angle on an international history of space travel.

What may stick with readers south of the border—aside from a jaundiced view of two Cold War powers “racing to get the first soldiers into space” and using animals in “sacrificial” roles to advance that agenda—is the sheer variety of animal astronauts. Following nods to the Montgolfier brothers and other pioneers, the authors go on in one- or two-page entries to chronicle purposes, courses, and outcomes for 50 missions, mostly from the space programs’ earlier days, in which monkeys and chimps flew for the U.S., Laika and other dogs for the USSR, cats (inexplicably) for France, and later on a great range of birds, bugs, fish, spiders, “ant-stronauts,” mice, and more…with and without human accompaniment. Most actually survived their journeys, even a pair of steppe tortoises looped around the moon and Enos (a chimp who, no doubt to the envy of many fellow astronauts, got away with throwing feces at a visiting politician because “he was a hotshot and good at his job”), whose 1961 Mercury capsule suffered multiple failures in orbit. Each visually crowded entry squeezes in a boxed mission profile and one or, usually, more period photos. Resource lists at the end supplement frequent leads throughout to online research reports or videos. Human figures are, with rare exceptions, white.

Laika’s tragic fate notwithstanding, a generally triumphant tally of liftoffs, landings, and scientific insights. (glossary, websites) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4595-0602-2

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Formac

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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