A mostly lukewarm second outing.

TROLL CONTROL

From the Gabby Duran series , Vol. 2

Only two days after her first assignment for the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors, 12-year-old Gabby Duran’s cosmically renowned babysitting skills are called back into service.

Ever enthusiastic, the “Sitter to the Unsittables” quickly befriends a lonely young troll whose penchant for thievery and riddles might just make Gabby the most hated member of the Brensville Middle School orchestra. Plucky, positive, and peppy, Gabby remains a one-dimensional yet likable protagonist. Unfortunately for her and for readers, this follow-up to Gabby Duran and the Unsittables (2015) isn’t all that…adventurous. Most of the novel centers on Gabby’s desperate efforts to recover a rare book to be auctioned off to raise funds for the orchestra, all while trying to adhere to strict policies designed to protect A.L.I.E.N.’s secrecy. She risks termination, but there’s no bounty on her head. There are no dark agents hot on her trail. The stakes somehow feel lower this time around, and both tension and intrigue suffer. While the cast of secondary characters remains largely underutilized, one of the best parts about this sequel is that Gabby’s best friend, Zee, is given a slightly larger role than before. With her love of science and gadgetry, Zee is perfectly suited to take part in the alien escapades and to remind preteen readers that it’s cool for girls to be passionate about STEM.

A mostly lukewarm second outing. (Science fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0936-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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