Romance + fourth grade = ugh. (Fiction. 8-12)

EMMA EMMETS, PLAYGROUND MATCHMAKER

Emma has a gift for matchmaking and is determined to use it.

Fourth-graders Emma and Claire are in different classes for the first time, and things promise to be interesting. When cool girl Annie enthusiastically credits Emma with finding her a boyfriend at summer camp, Emma is thrust into the role of matchmaker for the whole grade. Between the snarky comments of California transplant Daniel and the outright meanness of queen bee Isla, Emma struggles to find her way and build her new business. Emma hopes her new fame will allow her to be popular with her peers and leave behind some of the unfortunate nicknames of her earlier years. She commandeers the best playground spot and begins putting together romantic matches between the kids in her grade, inspired by the quizzes she reads in teen magazines and her own crush on teen heartthrob Jake LaDrake. Mercifully, the matches that Emma makes are, in the end, more platonic than romantic. Unfortunately, readers must put up with an overlong trip to get to the end. The journey is filled with uncomfortable crushes, one awkward playground marriage, dated language (“adorbs” and “obvi”) and too many references to cellphone usage. Emma’s quest for popularity makes her an unlikable fourth grader. 

Romance + fourth grade = ugh. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59514-661-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.

THE NEWSPAPER CLUB

From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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