A SPY AMONG THE GIRLS

Nine-year-old Caroline Malloy is green with envy; her ten-year-old sister, Beth, is in love. As a budding actress, Caroline wants the experience of love or tragedy just to add to her repertoire. Fans of the series about these neighbors will roll with laughter as she attempts to force Wally Hatford to fall in love with her. When a new sweater doesn’t get a wild reaction, she seeks out the juiciest valentine and signs it “Achingly yours,” with rows of X’s and O’s. The oldest sister, Eddie, thinks only about the upcoming sixth-grade science fair; for her project, she sets out to prove that boys are more gullible than girls. She capitalizes on her town’s present fear of the “abaguchie,” the nickname they’ve given to a mysterious creature that prowls around the vicinity after dark. If Eddie claimed she’d captured the abaguchie in their garage, would more boys or girls come to see it? Ever the actress, Caroline designs a fearsome abaguchie costume and the girls hand-stuff secretive invitations in their schoolmates’ pockets. Unaware of the premise, the Hatford boys are even enlisted to record the names and ages of those who attend. The results delight the girls—twice as many boys as girls show up, proving that boys are the more gullible sex. Beth’s beau, Josh Hatford, tries to deny his interest in Beth to save face with his brothers, but when he enlists the help of his youngest brother, Peter, to deliver a box of Whitman’s chocolates to Beth’s door, the results backfire. The description of Peter deftly breaking into the box to nibble and poke away at chocolate after chocolate while the girls watch in disbelief from a safe outpost will make the reader’s sides hurt. All in all, a terrific sequel to a long list of winners. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32336-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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