Monday, February 23, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/23/2009

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy vy David Soman and Jacky Davis. Dial, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3339-8
What's a superhero without a sidekick? Lulu, star of last year's Ladybug Girl, meets her friend Sam at the playground, but before they can join forces, they must first agree on what to play—a sequence handled with understanding and humor. At one point, Lulu hits on the idea of using the seesaw: “She runs over and sits down on one side of the seesaw and waits. And waits. Sam just stands there, not getting on.” Ultimately, intrigued by Lulu's suggestion of a game involving superpowers, Sam becomes Bumblebee Boy, with his striped shirt and a stick for a stinger. Together they battle the Mean Robot (tire swing) that threatens to “crush the playground” (“Ladybug Girl grabs on, and jumps on top of its head! Bumblebee Boy stings it with his stinger again and again”) and attract some new heroes, too. Soman's pen-and-ink characters are remarkably emotive—this is a story that delights in children's enthusiastic imaginations. Also noteworthy is the team's pacing: there's no dead air, and all the action plays naturally. A favorite series in the making. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)

Melonhead by Katy Kelly, illus. by Gillian Johnson. Delacorte, $12.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-73409-7
Kelly, author of Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me and its sequels, launches an appealing, boy-centric series starring Lucy Rose's friend, Adam Melon (dubbed Melonhead). The hyperkinetic nine-year-old's knack for finding trouble surfaces immediately, when his foot gets stuck in a tree and he must be rescued by firefighters (“My mom said my shoe is ruined. I told her, 'Not to me.' I nailed it to the wall over my bed so I will always have the memory”). Though Melonhead's subsequent conundrums are (slightly) less dramatic, they are no less engaging or energetic. Adam's goofy sense of humor and his comic interactions with his parents, teachers and best friend Sam (the two are amateur inventors) are just right for the target audience. “I love the feeling of having a pet in the house,” he says of the snake he's hiding from his parents. “Two pets, actually, even though as soon as Cobra has his next lunch, I'll be back to one.” The book has an excellent shot at winning over reluctant readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)

Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers by Brent Runyon Knopf, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-84446-1
Runyon's (The Burn Journals; Maybe) stirring coming-of-age novel is set at the lakeside cottage where Luke and his parents spend two weeks every summer. Each of the four chapters presents a different stage of Luke's adolescence between the ages of 13 and 16, tracing his emotional, hormonal and physical changes and his broadening perception of his surroundings, particularly the neighbors. There is the eccentric Richardson family, fastidious about their yard and cottage; a newcomer minister who marks his territory with a floodlight and Confederate flag; and a mysterious girl whose father allegedly stole Luke's father's barbecue. (“Her eyes look like an Egyptian queen's eyes. They're huge and brown and I don't know why, but I want to stare into them for as long as I can,” Luke pines.) The detail-rich story offers the type of intensity that sneaks up on readers, not taking a firm hold until the end, when previous events take on new meaning. Despite the book's structure, the plot seems to move in a spiral, revisiting familiar landmarks that inevitably change over time and digging underneath the surface. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)

Congratulations to these authors!

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