A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem.

MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL

A middle schooler struggles to adjust after moving to an idyllic Massachusetts town.

Trish Das is at a crossroads. Not only is the 12-year-old unhappy that her family has moved yet again due to her mother’s cardiology career, she also has to try out for a new baseball team. The fact that one of her new teammates is a former archrival further complicates matters. Math prodigy Ben Messina went head-to-head against fellow math whiz Trish at last spring’s Math Puzzlers Championship. When Trish emerged victorious, Ben was stunned. The two get closer when the team’s mysterious pregame snacks start making everyone play better while also causing magical side effects during games. Equally surprising are the cryptic puzzle booklets Trish and Ben receive in the mail that lead them to even more wins. But as the puzzles get harder to solve, the risk of failing to do so increases. Alternating between Trish’s and Ben’s perspectives, LaRocca’s novel—a companion to 2019’s Midsummer’s Mayhem—is a Much Ado About Nothing homage that explores parental expectations, complicated friendships, and teamwork. The protagonists’ love of problem-solving shines through, and the puzzles themselves are clearly explained. As a third-generation Indian American, Trish also has moving conversations about the circumstances that led her grandparents to emigrate and how those decisions still impact their lives. Ben is implied White. Final illustrations not seen.

A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1101-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yellow Jacket

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A tropical action-filled adventure with heart.

THE EXPLORER

A crash-landing in the Amazon leaves four children stranded in the deep jungle.

They are Fred, a tall, white English boy, biracial Brazilian siblings Lila and 5-year-old Max, and a pale, white English girl, Constantia. Together they search for shelter and forage for edible fruits and larva. When Fred stumbles upon an old map, they decide to follow it to the X. In their handmade raft the crew travels down the river, through murky and clear waters, until they rediscover a lost city. Among the ruins they meet a mysterious man. He refuses to give his name, but will he refuse to help them get home? Rundell breathes character into the Amazon rain forest. The sounds, smells, flora, and fauna are vivid and tangible in the mind. The children are not as colorful, unfortunately. Fred, Lila, and Con give voice to their fears at every step, from climbing trees to facing down wild animals. Max has brief moments of wisdom in between bouts of tears or unbridled joy. The unnamed explorer does add some vibrancy to the book and commands attention despite the lush backdrop. His commentary on the effects of European imperialism is commendable although brief.

A tropical action-filled adventure with heart. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1945-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story.

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CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND

An African-American youngster is happiest when he can play his harmonica with his bluesman grandfather until tragedy removes the music from his life.

Clayton Byrd idolizes his grandfather, a popular bluesman. But his mother disapproves of her father’s music and of Clayton’s joining Cool Papa Byrd and other bluesmen in the park. Clayton’s father tries to make a place in his life, but the things he likes to do cannot compare to the music. When Cool Papa Byrd dies suddenly, Clayton’s pain is almost unbearable, made worse when his mother gets rid of the records and instruments that Clayton expected would be his way of maintaining that special connection. School becomes as difficult as home, and counseling with the church pastor doesn’t help. Hoping to find a place with the remaining bluesmen, he meets up with a group of street boys making their way with beat music and dance. When he plays his harmonica and the crowd responds, the boys form an uneasy alliance that is threatened when the police intervene. Clayton’s love of his grandfather and his music is wonderfully drawn, as is his grief when he loses them. His mother’s unresolved issues with her own childhood inform the story appropriately for young readers. The conjunction of two African-American music genres, both born of struggle, is a colorful backdrop for this lively story.

Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-221591-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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