A TALE DARK & GRIMM

Fairy tales for the horror set blend themselves into one intact thread that’s satisfying enough to overcome an intrusive narrator. The storyteller’s voice (presented in bold type) opens by asserting that original Grimm tales are “awesome,” “violent and ... bloody,” while “all the versions of the stories you’ve heard [are]… mind-numbingly boring” due to sanitization. It’s an odd premise for a piece whose audience is surely aware of many fractured fairy tales that are dark and/or awesome. The narrator contributes unnecessary platitudes, but on the plus side, savvily warns when little kids should leave the room, effectively cautioning big kids that upcoming content is sad or gory—and it really is. Heads are lopped off, blood flows, men reach down girls’ throats and pull out their souls. Old Grimm tales and Gidwitz’s original additions weave together into one arc, with fiercely loyal siblings Hansel and Gretel at the heart. The narrator’s presence lessens; action and emotion deepen; funny gross-outs pop up amid serious violence; and everything builds to one painful and triumphant catharsis. (Fractured fairy tale. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-525-42334-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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A winning novel that lays bare some painful truths and is sure to nurture empathy among readers.

THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE

For white sixth-grader Maverick Falconer, life could hardly be worse.

His father died while serving in Afghanistan; he’s ashamed of his alcoholic mom, who can’t keep a job and attracts abusive boyfriends; he often misses meals and wears worn-out clothes—and, for good measure, he’s friendless, mercilessly bullied in school, and can’t stay out of trouble. He dreams of being a superhero but berates himself for weakness. Some bright spots peek through: Maverick has a loving, supportive aunt, a pet hamster, and a plastic sheriff’s badge his father bought him. This he holds onto to remember his hero dad and to bolster his courage. In fast-paced, breezy, first-person prose that’s by turns laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenching, Sonnenblick creates in Maverick an endearing protagonist to root for. Despite daunting obstacles, this terrific boy retains a strong sense of self, a sense of humor, and a big heart that impels him to do what’s right, as when he defends his archnemesis. Other characters are similarly well-realized, in particular the assistant principal who projects a terrifying persona but is actually compassionate and softhearted. A daring confrontation, some startling revelations, and serious injuries lead to an emotionally satisfying ending in which Maverick acknowledges who real heroes are—and that his kindness proves he was one all along.

A winning novel that lays bare some painful truths and is sure to nurture empathy among readers. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86320-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A satisfying, winning read.

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Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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