Will score with readers fond of uncomplicated messages.

DEFENDING CHAMP

In the wake of a triumphant season playing football with the boys, a seventh grade girl faces challenges when she rejoins her old soccer team.

Alex Carlisle is more-or-less prepared for the resentment she encounters from some former squad mates who feel as if she abandoned them the previous fall. But not even a successful tryout and the arrival of an exciting new coach can counter the shocking news that the girls’ spring soccer season (not the boys’, of course) has been cancelled due to budget cuts. Rather than go quietly, though, the girls come up with a chancy scheme to raise the necessary $25,000 through a face-off with the boys’ team, which is led by sneering superstar Chase Gwinn. Following on Triple Threat (2020), this sequel features suspenseful sports action and heroic feats aplenty, but the plot is plainly designed to highlight values that serve both on and off the pitch: Alex works hard to play her very best, to be a good friend, to make the team, and then to make it a true team by turning antagonists into allies willing to bury personal grudges and agendas. If the author’s suggestion that final scores aren’t the only way to measure wins is unconvincing, at least he puts the notion out there for consideration. Names rather than physical cues signal some diversity in a cast well stocked with strong-minded kids.

Will score with readers fond of uncomplicated messages. (Sports fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984836-92-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A splendid adventure, hilarious and harrowing in turn and so strongly cast that even the precocious pocket primate doesn’t...

THE IMAGINATION BOX

From the Imagination Box series , Vol. 1

Two young sleuths—three if you count the talking marmoset—narrowly avert worldwide disaster after a truly dangerous device and its inventor vanish suddenly.

Ford works twists both funny and terrifying into the notion of wish fulfillment. Being a nosy sort, 10-year-old Tim soon discovers that Professor Eisenstone, a secretive new guest at the hotel his adoptive parents own, has developed a nano-assembler the size of a microwave oven that creates any item that can be visualized strongly enough. It doesn’t take long for the clever white lad to think into existence Phil, a companion “finger monkey” with posh manners and accent, and also an improved Imagination Box of his own. But almost immediately, Eisenstone and the original are snatched by a villainous ex-politician. Tim and Eisenstone’s equally clever granddaughter, Dee, also white, discover this last by following a trail of clues to (wait for it) a secret lab under a former insane asylum…a perfect setting for both weird science and a massively destructive climax. The author cranks up the horror by giving the box the ability to make tangible not just physical items, but fears and nightmares too. Also, by not blinding his characters to the device’s potential, he invites readers to imagine the implications for themselves.

A splendid adventure, hilarious and harrowing in turn and so strongly cast that even the precocious pocket primate doesn’t steal the show . (Science fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93627-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond.

NOAH MCNICHOL AND THE BACKSTAGE GHOST

The Plattsfield-Winklebottom Memorial Sixth-Grade Players tackle Hamlet—and not the bowdlerized “No-Trauma Drama” version, either.

To be sure, “Hamlet, the Tale of a Gritty Prince Who Learns To Be Patient,” is what the inexperienced young players are handed—but hardly has oddly elusive new director Mike stepped in to sub for the annual event’s customary one (who has, with fine irony, broken her leg) than every script magically reverts to the Bard’s original and they find themselves plunged into a bloody, complicated, and much cooler scenario. But who is Mike, and how is it that he can apparently not only appear and vanish at will, but conjure elaborate sets and costumes out of thin air? Taking a cue from his erstwhile literary hero Nate the Great, Noah (aka Marcellus, Gravedigger One, Rosencrantz, and Fortinbras) sets out to solve this double mystery. Electrifyingly, Mike turns out to be a renowned stage director…who died in 2014. That’s far from the only twist that Freeman delivers on the way to a triumphant performance—and a rush of family revelations. Her characters quote Shakespeare at one another as immersive rehearsals lend hard-won insights into the play’s linguistic and thematic slings and arrows. Noah, who is Jewish, describes Plattsfield as predominantly White; there are a few students of color, including Fuli, a girl cast as Hamlet who emigrated from Nepal. Color-blind casting and race are explored to some degree.

The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond. (Paranormal mystery. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6290-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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