Who says a middle schooler can’t change history? It’s all about being in the right place—and time.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

YOU'VE GOT MAIL

From the Benjamin Franklin series

Franklin Isaac Saturday mails himself in a box back to the 18th century to help out his pen pal and good buddy, “B-Freezy.” Dude!

It’s the least Ike can do, seeing as how previous gifts from the future (as detailed in Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My…, 2015) have turned Franklin into a homeless fugitive and threaten to derail the whole American Revolution thing. Thinking that a quick trip overseas could solve both problems, the white middle schooler and his irritable but indulgent ally take ship in Philadelphia—meeting onboard certain other Founding Fathers Ike dubs “T-Jeff” and “Johnny Adrock”—to appeal for aid from the king of France. Unfortunately, a rendezvous with a few too many iffy oysters along the way leaves Ike to make the actual appeal while B-Freezy and his diplomat buds ralph in the background. Related in a mix of first-person narrative, diary entries from Franklin, and long letters exchanged between Ike and his Asian-American 21st-century girlfriend, Claire Wanzandae, the tale may strain readers’ ability to go with the flow (no kidding). Still, it should leave them respecting both the awesomeness of the U.S. Postal Service (Franklin’s invention!) and the resourceful protagonist, who may be slow to realize that Marie Antoinette wasn’t the discoverer of radium but shows an ability to rise eloquently to the occasion when needs must.

Who says a middle schooler can’t change history? It’s all about being in the right place—and time. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1305-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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