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Novels

The Year of the Bomb
Simon & Schuster, 2009

  • Junior Library Guild selection

The year is 1955, and there’s nothing that Paul and his best friends Oz, Arnie, and Crank love more than horror movies. So when Invasion of the Body Snatchers starts filming in their small California town, they couldn’t be more excited. But when their acquaintance with Laura and Darryl, extras in the movie, leads to what may be an atomic spy, Paul is afraid they’re in too deep. It's not a horror movie anymore -- this is real life.

This coming-of-age tale is about taking a stand, following the crowd, and navigating the gray areas in between.

“Ever so aptly billed ‘Stand by Me meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ this multilayered historical novel features a quartet of quarrelsome—but loyal in the crunch—13-year-olds responding to the anxieties of the McCarthy-era Cold War.... Kidd folds in good measures of comic relief and period detail, separates fiction from fact in an afterword and lets his characters develop in credible ways. He also gives... plenty of food for thought about the hazards of rushing to judgment, of taking people at face value and, most profoundly, of living in a pervasive climate of fear—all decidedly relevant topics for today’s readers to mull.”

Kirkus Reviews

Readers “will learn a lot about the era, and the details about the horror and science-fiction genres and the movie industry are stellar. Expect questions about spies and bombs, and circulation of 1950s horror flicks to skyrocket.”

School Library Journal

“Ronald Kidd skillfully uses 1950s horror films to set the scene for a novel in which nothing is quite what it seems and anyone can become an enemy at any time. Exploiting the proximity between Sierra Madre, California, where the B-movie classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers was filmed, and physicist Richard Feynman's home in Altadena, California, Kidd interweaves Hollywood lore and Cold War terror into an effective and bittersweet coming-of-age tale.”

Junior Library Guild
 

On Beale Street
Simon & Schuster, 2008

Living in Memphis in 1954, Johnny's world is completely segregated—until he starts sneaking out to Beale Street at night. Beale Street, with its music clubs, is on the wrong side of the tracks, but it’s the only place Johnny can hear the blues, which is all he cares about. It’s also near Sun Records, where Johnny finds himself working for Sam Phillips—and witnessing history in the making when an up-and-coming musician named Elvis records his first song. Nobody has heard anything like it.

All at once Johnny is pulled into a storm of controversy around this new kind of music, just as racial tensions are reaching a breaking point. What started out as a part-time job and a way to get behind the scenes of a record label has gotten out of control. As songs like Elvis's start rising up the charts, Johnny sees the power that music has to bring people together—while secrets from the past threaten to tear his black-and-white life apart.

In this searing, cinematic novel, acclaimed writer Ronald Kidd tells a coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of race conflict and the birth of rock ’n’ roll.

“Kidd portrays the music scene with the enthusiasm of a blues fan while mining the layers of racism in a town where ‘there was black. There was white. But there was never gray.’ Johnny has an affinity for the gray, and Sun Records begins to feel like home, ‘a place where people didn’t care if you were black or white.’ Johnny’s journey of self-discovery is rooted in a vividly described setting and well-drawn characters.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This novel is a fascinating glimpse into the musical world of Beale Street, the society that was the segregated South, the origins of rock and roll, and one teenís quest for the truth about his father. Accurate historical details are skillfully woven into what becomes an absorbing search for personal identity.”

School Library Journal
 

Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial
Simon & Schuster, 2006

  • Books for the Teen Age (New York Public Library)
  • Best Books for Young Adults Nominee (American Library Association)
  • Notable Children's Book Nominee (American Library Association)

When school lets out in sleepy Dayton, Tennessee, fifteen-year-old Frances Robinson has one thing on her mind—spending time with handsome schoolteacher Johnny Scopes. But when Frances’s father has Johnny arrested for teaching evolution, overnight Dayton becomes the center of the universe. Every bigwig, from Clarence Darrow to William Jennings Bryan to H.L. Mencken, is heading south. As the fire and brimstone heat up in court, Johnny begins to struggle. And Frances has never been more at odds with her father, or more in love with the teacher whose trial made the whole world stop and think.

Ronald Kidd brings to life a controversy that dates back to 1925 in a coming-of-age novel that evokes To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind.

“Weaving a somber yet witty narrative around a pivotal event, this fast-paced drama is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Kidd's personal relationship with account witnesses and his talent for storytelling create a unique and heartfelt story of a likable girl maturing through an unforgettable summer in American history. An excellent read and a wonderful piece of literature.”

School Library Journal (starred)

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Sammy Carducci’s Guide to Women
Lodestar (Dutton), 1991
Puffin (Penguin), 1994
Dramatic Publishing, 1995
Excerpted in Childsplay, 1995

At four-foot-two, Sammy Carducci may be the shortest kid in the class, but he’s not going to let that stand in his way. Dressing for school in a suit, tie, and sneakers, he dares to be different.

Based on pointers provided by his handsome older brother (and a few insights of his own), Sammy plans to figure out the “scientific principles” of female behavior. What better way to get the girls in the sixth grade to fall for him?

With his trandemark on-target humor, author Ronald Kidd has created the most irresistible, eccentric, one-of-a-kind sixth grader you’ll ever meet.

“A charming, delightful, and well-written novel that will appeal to both sexes.”

Children’s Book Review Service

“The funny scenarios and sharp one-liners give this book instant appeal.”

School Library Journal
 

Second Fiddle: A Sizzle & Splat Mystery
Lodestar (Dutton), 1988
Troll, 1989

  • Edgar Award nomination (Best Young Adult Mystery)

When strange pranks are played on the Pirelli Youth Orchestra, trumpet player Sizzle—Prudence Szyznowski—and tuba player Splat—Arthur Handley Reavis Pauling III—have a baffling mystery to investigate.

Who turned on the rehearsal room sprinklers during Handel’s Water Music Suite? Why was Splat’s tuba packed with fish when he played Finlandia? Worst of all, who set off the firecrackers in the case containing Kevin Lim’s violin—a quarter-million dollar Stradivarius he’d borrowed from his famous father?

Thumbing the noses in the face of danger, Sizzle and Splat pursue their suspects. The quick-witted and witty sleuths know they’d better solve the mystery before the prankster plays a final joke—and gets the last laugh on them.

The action and wisecracks never let up in this entertaining and zany book.

“Kidd’s ability to manufacture suspense out of the doings of a youth orchestra is admirable; moreover, his neat plot is executed in a breezy style. Even readers who have never heard of Mozart will find themselves immersed—and manage to pick up a little music education along the way. Definitely entertaining.”

Booklist

“Comical, suspenseful, and thoroughly entertaining.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 

The Glitch: A Computer Fantasy
Lodestar (Dutton), 1985

  • Junior Literary Guild selection
  • Excerpted in Holt and Harcourt reading programs

Benjamin Bean hates computers the way most kids hate homework. Suddenly, Benjy’s worst nightmare comes true—he’s trapped inside a computer.

As he hunts for an escape, Benjy discovers that he’s become a glitch—a malfunction in the system. The Computer Police, led by the dreaded Delete, are searching for him. With his companions—a tailcoated professor, M the minstrel, and Negatori—Benjy undertakes a dangerous journey from the I/O Port, through the Electric Forest, to CPU City. Not only must he find his way home, but he must contend with the warring factions of ROM and RAM, which are threatening the Computer Kingdom.

This zany tale of a boy’s adventures in the land of bits and bytes makes computers appear almost human.
 

Sizzle & Splat
Lodestar (Dutton), 1983
Dell, 1986
Yugaku Sha (Japan), 1987

  • Best Books of the Year (School Library Journal)
  • A Library of Congress Children’s Book
  • California Young Reader Medal nomination
  • Excerpted in Macmillan and Macmillan U.K. reading programs

When the Pirelli Youth Orchestra’s rehearsal room is vandalized and the orchestra is warned not to play Hans Kleiman’s trumpet concerto at the fall concert, no one can figure out why. Then the orchestra’s sponsor is kidnapped, and his abductors say they will return him after the concert—providing the concerto is not played.

Sizzle—Prudence Szyznowski—the star trumpet player, and her buddy Splat—Arthur Hadley Reavis Pauling III—the weird and wisecracking tuba player, decide to investigate. Who is the most likely suspect? A rival conductor who doesn’t want the orchestra to draw a large audience? The concertmaster, angry that Kleiman composed a trumpet solo instead of a violin solo? Or does the mystery lie in a cryptogram to be solved during the concert intermission for a $500 prize? Time is running out. If the puzzle isn’t solved and the culprit caught, the orchestra will fold.

So Sizzle and Splat take to the road in Splat’s 1949 Packard Custom Eight, in pursuit of their suspects. Readers will enjoy following the exploits of these fresh young sleuths in this hilarious and unusual mystery.

“Kidd has a wry sense of humor that never lets up during this unusual case, and his main characters are delightful individualists. The result is a book that is all sizzle.”

School Library Journal (starred)

“A lively mystery-adventure with high entertainment value.”

Booklist

“Fast, flaky stuff sure to please a sophisticated, media-wise audience.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 

Who Is Felix the Great?
Lodestar (Dutton), 1983

  • Books for the Teen Age (New York Public Library)

Tim Julian has been feeling pretty empty ever since his father died. Especially now that his mother is seeing a new boyfriend. So when he has to write a report for his eleventh grade English class on a once famous person, Tim suddenly remembers Felix the Great, the legendary Chicago Cubs shortstop who had been his father’s hero.

But what ever happened to Felix the Great, who has something in his past that no one wants to talk about? What Tim learns surprises him. Felix Johnson isn’t exactly the hero he has expected.

Then Tim gets a chance to drive Felix from Los Angeles to the Cubs’ Old Timers’ Game in Chicago. Chicago was Tim’s father’s hometown, so maybe, Tim thinks, he can find something of him by going back there. But what he really has to find in Chicago is himself.

This is a sensitive and readable story about a teenager and an old timer who try to relive the heroic past when they go back to the old ball game.
 

Dunker
Lodestar (Dutton), 1982
Bantam, 1984

  • Children’s Choice Award (International Reading Association)
  • Dramatized in Scholastic Scope Magazine

Being the kid from the Dunker’s Delights commercials—and having his face on every billboard in town—made Bobby Rothman feel like a freak. He hated having pushy show-biz parents, and looking like twelve when he was really sixteen.

High school was the worst of all. Everyone thought he was just a cute little kid. Then he met Barbara Bell, the most beautiful girl in class—and knew things had to change.

Going out for the basketball team was the first step. Making the squad, though, seemed impossible. His parents were against it. The star player was out to get him. And, at five feet four, Bobby hardly looked the part.

But he was determined. And what happens when he tries makes a most exciting and readable story.

“Author Ronald Kidd does a good job of conveying the feelings of all of the characters. He lends a light a readable style to this well-paced novel. Readers will enjoy the celebrity problems and the inside look at a recording studio as well as the action on the court.”

School Library Journal
 

That’s What Friends Are For
Lodestar (Dutton), 1978

If you didn’t know Scott, you’d think he was a bully. He was big, with a loud voice, and he liked to argue and pound one fist into the other. But he wasn’t really like that. He hated to play football. He hated violence. And Scott and Gary were best friends.

Scott liked playing chess at lunchtime, and Gary, who was small and easily preyed upon by practical jokesters, liked the protection that the husky boy represented. But soon he was learning to appreciate other things about his friend. His way of watching people and understanding them, for instance. His passion for science. The way he wasn’t any better coordinated or more athletic than Gary.

The boys have a great summer. They visit the sights of nearby Hollywood. They explore tide pools at Lunada Bay. They share an Honors Science project, studying fruit flies. But then Scott falls ill, and Gary discovers he’s dying. Bewildered by the changes in his friend, pressured by the need to keep his terrible secret, Gary finds the friendship tearing him apart. And when the end comes for Scott, Gary must attend the funeral.

This is not a story of death but a story of life—of the life of two boys and the memorial one erects for the other. In the boy who grows up—and in the one who will never grow up—every reader will find something of himself.

“The story is beautifully written and deals with both friendship and death in a way teenagers can identify with. I wish I had had this book when I was a teenager and a close friend died.”

Children’s Book Review Service

“The convincing first-person narrative gives a sense of immediacy to this thoughtful story.”

School Library Journal

“Writing so that his story sounds as if a fourteen-year-old were expressing himself, Kidd imbues his novel with realism and feeling…. An effective story on a difficult theme.”

Publishers Weekly