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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STORM RUNNERS

From the Storm Runners series , Vol. 1

Readers will really feel blasts of wind, water and flying debris in this disaster tale—at least until the narrative cuts off in mid-howl. As (fictional) Hurricane Emily moves toward Florida and his father, an itinerant contractor specializing in weather-disaster prep and repairs, heads for its expected landfall, Chase takes up temporary residence at a “farm” that turns out to be a circus’ winter quarters. Hardly has he reported to the local school, though, than the storm makes a sudden turn and surge that strands him, along with classmates Nicole and Rashawn, in a wrecked bus on a crumbling levee. Writing in clipped prose and dialogue, Smith quickly plunges the three refugees into a desperate struggle to survive floods, darkness, howling gales and even an encounter with a wily alligator on the way to what they hope will be safety. Though the author’s practice of repeatedly cutting away to other characters’ points of view distracts from rather than tightens the suspense, and he abruptly chops off the narrative on a cliffhanger as the storm’s eye passes, Chase and his friends get repeated opportunities to show that they’re made of sturdy stuff. Since they are left sharing a barn with an elephant who is about to give birth as a vicious escaped leopard roams outside, readers are really going to want to find out what happens next. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-08175-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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Familiar superhero/supervillain tropes are positively shoveled into a tale that has enough psychological complexity to...

THE CLOAK SOCIETY

From the Cloak Society series , Vol. 1

A young supervillain-in-training develops qualms of conscience in this deceptively earnest debut.

After 10 years of lying low following a devastating defeat by the Rangers of Justice, the nefarious Cloak Society is ready for a rematch—but Alex, 12-year-old member of the Cloak's Beta Team, is suddenly having doubts. For one thing, his telekinetic power seems more suitable for no-hands origami than heavy lifting. For another, his telepathic mother, Shade, and the rest of Cloak's older generation appear to have more up their sleeves than simple domination of Sterling City, Texas. Most disturbing of all, though, encounters in battle and at the mall with shape-changing Junior Ranger Kirbie have left Alex unsure of his true capacity for evil. Along with outfitting both super factions with appropriately cool powers, names, costumes and lairs, Kraatz slips in further cultural enrichment with sly references to game theory, Shakespeare and true crimes. Unsurprisingly, the climactic fray forces members of both junior squads to become reluctant allies—and also leaves enough loose ends to fuel a sequel or six.

Familiar superhero/supervillain tropes are positively shoveled into a tale that has enough psychological complexity to please readers who have not overdosed on this subgenre. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-209547-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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