Rewards await persistent readers: sly satire, quirky detail, and a smart, opinionated heroine brimming with ebullient...

RUBY REDFORT PICK YOUR POISON

From the Ruby Redfort series , Vol. 5

In the series’ penultimate adventure, the whip-smart, code-cracking teen spy for the secret Spectrum agency takes on venomous snakes, traitors, and evildoers but is helpless against poisonous rumors circulating at school.

Out of loyalty, Ruby took the rap for classmates whose fight summoned the cops; now she’s grounded, sentenced to community service, and forced to babysit Archie Lemon, age 1. After solving many cases for Spectrum, she’s suddenly frozen out of important briefings; do they think she’s the suspected mole? Her quick action saves a querulous neighbor’s snake-bitten dog but nets her only his abuse. No good deed goes unpunished, but the white 13-year-old isn’t about to give up sleuthing. There’s something weird about billboards advertising a new soft drink; investigating leads Ruby to familiar foes. Set in 1972 Southern California, the series, by an English author, has a 1950s sensibility (typical exclamations and epithets include “jeepers” and “Sam Hill”). The cellphone- and computer-free cultural ambiance is refreshing, but although the once-cartoonish characters have deepened over the series, their largely all-white world hasn’t evolved. It’s Little Lulu and Archie territory—no Vietnam War or cultural upheaval here. However dated, the ingenious puzzles and humor, especially in dialogue among Ruby and her peers, remain highlights. Still, slow pacing, frequent digressions, and unsentimental, bone-dry humor may challenge U.S. readers used to nonstop action and a straight plot throughline.

Rewards await persistent readers: sly satire, quirky detail, and a smart, opinionated heroine brimming with ebullient self-esteem. (afterword) (Mystery. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5471-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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