Vague martial arts platitudes told but not really taught.

THE BELT OF FIRE

From the Julie Black Belt series

Chua’s energetic cartoon scenes of children in graceful martial arts poses fail to animate this ponderous tale of dissonance in kung fu class.

Rival yellow belts Julie and new student Brandon have thrown one another badly off their rhythms on the mat. Seeing this, their instructor, or Sifu, pairs them up and sends them outdoors for private lessons with his own teacher, Master Zhou—an elderly woman, in a very nice twist. In time, the two students become good partners, regain their mental balance and go on to ace their orange-belt tests. Rather than mention specific techniques, Chin intersperses hyperbolic lines such as “Brandon struck like a lion. Julie soared like an eagle.” Portentous statements include “Though sparks may fly, two blades can sharpen each other,” and “Kung fu means strengthening your own discipline and ability.” In a subplot capped by an anticlimactic, clumsily handled surprise, the author shoehorns in episodes from a parallel-themed martial arts movie for which Master Zhou apparently turns out to have been a technical adviser. Chua’s images of figures with wide, bright eyes—and in Julie’s case, a pink kitty hairpin—add plenty of visual syrup but not enough to make this palatable.

Vague martial arts platitudes told but not really taught. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59702-079-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Immedium

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. .

THE CONTRACT

For his eponymous imprint, the New York Yankees star leads off with a self-referential tale of Little League triumphs.

In the first of a projected 10 episodes based on the same number of “Life Lessons” espoused by the lead author’s Turn 2 Foundation, third-grader Derek turns in an essay announcing that his dream is to play shortstop for the New York Yankees (No. 1 on the Turn 2 list: “Set your goals high”). His parents take him seriously enough not only to present him with a “contract” that promises rewards for behaviors like working hard and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but also to put a flea in the ear of his teacher after she gives him a B-minus on the essay for being unrealistic. Derek then goes on to pull up his math grade. He also proceeds to pull off brilliant plays for his new Little League team despite finding himself stuck at second base while the coach’s son makes multiple bad decisions at shortstop and, worse, publicly puts down other team members. Jeter serves as his own best example of the chosen theme’s theoretical validity, but as he never acknowledges that making the majors (in any sport) requires uncommon physical talent as well as ambition and determination, this values-driven pitch is well out of the strike zone.

Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. . (foundation ad and curriculum guide, not seen) (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2312-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.

THE MISSING BASEBALL

From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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