A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile.

CUBA IN MY POCKET

To escape the harsh realities of Castro’s Cuba, a 12-year-old boy must leave his family behind and flee to the United States alone.

Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel’s grip on Cuba tightens. Neighbors whisper and conspire against each other, and those not loyal to Castro’s regime face punishment, even execution. When young Cumba is marked for military recruitment, his family decides to send him off to the United States. Escaping to Miami and the home of a distant relative, Cumba struggles to adjust to his new life without his family. The labyrinthlike city’s size and the cacophony of English-speaking voices overwhelm the young boy at first. School also brings its share of pains and embarrassments. Thankfully, Cumba gains allies in the unlikeliest ways, including an American schoolmate obsessed with horse races and other Cuban refugee young people. Letters from his little brother back home also bring him some comfort. Then, one day, a letter brings horrible news: Fidel’s soldiers have arrested Cumba’s parents. Inspired by stories from her father’s childhood, Cuevas’ latest is a triumph of the heart. Devoting half of the story to Cumba’s life in Cuba and the other half to his adjustment to the United States, the author continually reminds readers about the strength provided by community and family and the forces that can threaten to snatch these sources of happiness away.

A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-31467-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer.

WE ARE FAMILY

Basketball is life in Lorain, Ohio.

A group of seventh graders have different reasons for joining Hoop Group, an elite youth basketball program. Jayden, who lives in a tiny, cramped house with his mother and grandmother, desperately needs the money playing for the NBA would bring. Chris’ uncle made it out of Lorain and into the NBA, but he doesn’t share his uncle’s skills and can’t quite live up to his father’s expectations. Tamika’s dad was Hoop Group’s coach before Parkinson’s disease put the team’s future in jeopardy; she has a lot to prove and dreams of being the next Pat Summitt. Dex and his hardworking single mom are struggling with poverty, but he just loves the game––especially the Cleveland Cavs. And Anthony, frankly, doesn’t have much of a choice; it was either join this character-building group or face expulsion from school. A makeshift team of preteens with a lot on their plates, they discover as much about themselves (and one another) off the court as they do on it. The authors present a convincing argument about the value of basketball beyond points on the board and big contracts. The characters’ dreams are relatable along with the book’s universally valuable emphasis on hard work and perseverance. But the specifics about what it takes to make it in basketball and the fast-paced on-court action provide something special for young fans of the game. Main characters read as Black.

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297109-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more