Depth and complexity are added to great effect in this second installment.

THE MAGICIAN'S KEY

From the The Secrets of the Pied Piper series , Vol. 2

Following the events of The Peddler’s Road (2015), 12-year-old Max is desperate to return to the Summer Isle where her brother, Carter, is trapped with the children the Pied Piper led away from the town of Hamelin.

However, the only path between the lands is through a hidden and locked door. Thankfully, the white girl possesses a magical map. The key, however, proves more difficult to find. An evil magician claiming to have a Key of Everything is her only hope, but dealing with a man who employs a zombie as his butler and steals people’s souls seems like no hope at all. Max and Carter can count on the aid of trolls, goblins, and elves as well as the children of Hamelin. But the most surprising and dangerous friend is the Pied Piper himself. Chapters feature multiple story threads on both sides of the locked door. Characters are much more complex and interesting in this sequel than in the previous book, making this a definite upturn from the lackluster start to the trilogy. The intersection of magic and modernity provides an interesting forum for the discussion of racial profiling, disenfranchised individuals, and the effects of evil in the world. Able writing and storytelling weave these themes into a story that won’t disappoint.

Depth and complexity are added to great effect in this second installment. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75526-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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