Another crowd pleaser: funny, intelligent, and richly spiced with gross bits.


From the I Am Fartacus series , Vol. 2

Talented prankster Maciek “Chub” Trzebiatowski vows to go straight in seventh grade…with predictable results.

Chub’s resolve to keep his nose clean doesn’t last past the second day as he finds himself, along with nemesis/ex-friend Archer, pre-placed at the top of draconian new principal Gunborg Lockhart’s hit list due to their extensive records of past misdeeds. The prospect of instant expulsion on the slightest pretext forces the two into reluctant alliance when Lockhart’s prized artwork Electric Kangaroo—by renowned one-armed glass artist Wahoolie but so resembling a pile of purple snot that Chub dubs it Electric Boogerloo—is stolen by parties unknown. Bald since second grade due to a misguided chemistry experiment and glib as all get out, the ever enterprising Chub makes a memorable narrator as he dishes up a lively account of the ensuing desperate search for clues to the culprit. He also heads a posse of classmates who likewise display as many human quirks as comedic ones, such as Levi “Moby” Dick, who is intestinally hyperactive and so the (literal) butt of many gags but, with no motive beyond altruism, impulsively surprises Chub with a rare and coveted comic. Aside from comics-loving Japanese-American newcomer Megumi, the Seattle cast presents as white.

Another crowd pleaser: funny, intelligent, and richly spiced with gross bits. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6423-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Three interwoven narrative strands explore the complicated possibilities of friendship in early adolescence.

Bridge (formerly Bridget) finds increasing confidence as she navigates her seventh-grade year, while, in unsent letters to his absent grandfather, classmate Sherm expresses grief and anger over changes in his family. And an unnamed, slightly older child in a second-person narrative spends a single miserable day avoiding school for reasons that are revealed at the turning point. Stead explores communication and how messages—digital or verbal, intentional and inadvertent, delivered or kept private—suffuse the awkward, tentative world of young teens leaping (or sometimes falling) from the nest in search of their new selves. From Bridge’s cat-ears, worn daily from September through mid-February, to Sherm’s stolid refusal to respond to his grandfather’s texts, the protagonists try on their new and changing lives with a mixture of caution and recklessness. Stead adroitly conveys the way things get complicated so quickly and so completely for even fairly ordinary children at the edge of growing up with her cleareyed look at bullies and their appeal (one girl is “truly genius at being awful”), as well as her look at impulsiveness and the lure of easy sharing via text. She captures the stomach-churning moments of a misstep or an unplanned betrayal and reworks these events with grace, humor, and polish into possibilities for kindness and redemption.

Superb. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74317-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Rich, complex, and confidently voiced.


Lucy finds solace in her late mother’s passion for shark biology during a summer that brings a new grief.

First-person narrator Lucy and neighbor Fred are compiling a field guide to animals they find near their Rockport, Massachusetts, home. Lucy is the artist, Fred the scientist, and their lifelong friendship is only just hinting that it could become something more. Lucy’s mother, who died of a brain aneurysm when Lucy was 7, five years earlier in 1991, was a recognized shark biologist; her father is a police diver. When a great white is snagged by a local fisherman—a family friend—video footage of an interview with Lucy’s mother surfaces on the news, and Lucy longs to know more. But then another loved one dies, drowned in a quarry accident, and it is Lucy’s father who recovers the body—in their small community it seems everyone is grappling with the pain. Lucy’s persistence in learning about the anatomy of sharks in order to draw them is a kind of homage to those she’s lost. Most of the characters are white; a marine scientist woman of color and protégée of Lucy’s mother plays a key role. Allen offers, through Lucy’s voice, a look at the intersection of art, science, friendship, and love in a way that is impressively nuanced and realistic while offering the reassurance of connection.

Rich, complex, and confidently voiced. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3160-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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