DasGupta once again wittily meshes Bengali folktales, intergalactic science, and a spectacular world of her own creation in...

GAME OF STARS

From the Kingdom Beyond series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to DasGupta’s middle-grade debut, The Serpent’s Secret (2018), readers learn that Parsippany, New Jersey, middle schooler Kiranmala has not returned to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers for months.

In fact, none of the Indian-American’s friends from the Kingdom Beyond—especially princes Lalkamal and Neelkamal, their cousin Mati, and the bird Tuntuni—has contacted her since her departure. But after she is visited by the Rakkhoshi Queen under the cloak of night and prompted by an interdimensional television station to enter Who Wants to Be a Demon Slayer?, a multiverse reality game show, Kiranmala sets off to the Kingdom for another rollicking roller-coaster ride of an adventure, featuring a fork fight with a demon school dropout, an intergalactic auto-rikshaw ride, and a mind-boggling series of riddles with a ghost. In this outing DasGupta draws inspiration from American and South Asian pop culture in addition to Bengali folk and children’s literature, and an extensive author’s note provides readers with additional context for many of the cheeky references peppered throughout the book (the “Dead and Lovely” cream hawked in interdimensional TV ads is inspired by fairness creams that are ubiquitous on the Subcontinent, and “Samosa Drones” are a nod to Amazon’s suggestion that they might use drones for book deliveries). Kiran’s smart, funny voice will win new fans and gratify returning readers.

DasGupta once again wittily meshes Bengali folktales, intergalactic science, and a spectacular world of her own creation in a yarn that is part hero’s quest, part immigrant coming-of-age tale . (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-18573-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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