A bunt at best, but Green’s a good enough storyteller to keep readers in the game.

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BASEBALL GENIUS

Hooking up with a renowned shortstop-turned-publisher, Green shows that the premise of his Football Genius (2007) plays just as well in another sport.

It’s not a straight remake, but Green does recycle select plot elements and character types along with said premise. Hot to play for the local 13-and-under Rockets despite its starting pitcher, who is both a bully and the favored son of the team’s brutal coach, Jalen steals a bag of autographed baseballs from aging Yankees’ superstar James Yager to peddle for the requisite $990. Caught, he escapes punishment by claiming so insistently that he can predict pitches that the skeptical but slumping Yager brings him to Yankee Stadium for a tryout. Jalen does have a gift, though it turns out to be a fitful one. Green’s biracial protagonist (white and black) leads a cast that includes a struggling single dad who speaks in a cheesy Italian accent (“I take-a you shoes off….You close-a the eyes”), a standard-issue spunky-girl pal, and an admixture of actual sports personalities and athletes—including the likewise biracial Jeter, who claims his shared title-page credit by offering encouraging platitudes in a gratuitous cameo. The tale offers plenty of sports action as it scrambles from base to base past sudden obstacles and personal challenges.

A bunt at best, but Green’s a good enough storyteller to keep readers in the game. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6864-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Jeter Children's/Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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