The battle of the sexes is once again on in the fictional town of Buckman, West Virginia, as two families of modern-day child Hatfields and McCoys—the four Hatford brothers and three Malloy sisters—fight for supremacy in the latest installment of Naylor’s (The Boys Return, 2001, etc.) lightly amusing series. Here, she pits Eddie Malloy, a talented baseball player, and the only female on the Buckman Badgers, against Jake Hatford, who also has dreams of pitching glory. Although Jake knows that he should root for every player on the team, it’s hard not to be jealous of “the Whomper,” who strikes him out in practice sessions and seems to connect with every ball that comes within smacking distance of her bat. Meanwhile, Wally, a dreamy sort of kid who is not comfortable in the limelight, and Caroline, an aspiring actress who craves it, are in contention to be the winner of the fourth-grade spelling bee. And all the youngsters are competing in their own self-devised contest, racing bottles down the river. Distrust on both sides leads to sabotage, which in turn gets everyone into trouble, inciting another round of mischief and mayhem, though the author lets the reader see that the kids are able to pull together when it counts. There are lots of characters to keep track of and a few dull spots early on, so it will take new readers a couple of chapters to get into the story groove. Nonetheless, it’s good-humored fun and should be ambrosia to its fans. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-32738-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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


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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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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