As subtle as an extremely heartwarming brick


Shortly after moving to her grandmother’s tiny, rural town, a girl develops vitiligo.

Emma notices the first spot, like a white freckle, on the day of her grandmother’s funeral. Though she’s distracted in the following days and weeks by grief and loneliness, missing the grandmother with whom she’d made up stories about fairies in the woods, Emma can’t miss the new white spots on her skin, which keep appearing and spreading. Perhaps if she had her sister’s and father’s “buttercream” skin she could ignore it, but Emma has her mother’s “much darker complexion,” and the dots are unmistakable. (If Emma’s biracial, nothing is made of that fact in the story.) A doctor confirms what Emma’s internet search has hinted at: Emma has vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that causes the skin to lose pigment. She’s perfectly healthy, she learns, as she spends a chapter reading from a medical pamphlet, relaying helpful and informative excerpts to readers. Unsurprisingly, Emma’s vitiligo, combined with being a new kid in school, has led to some vicious bullying in her new seventh grade. What would Emma do without Fina, her new friend? Fina is warm, supportive, and Mexican American, providing comfort, extremely unkidlike counseling, and educational explanations about the Day of the Dead and quinceañeras. Emma’s troubles and the magical stories she’d told with Gram in the forest come together in a warm and after-school-special–ish Thanksgiving in which even the bully is revealed to be good at heart.

As subtle as an extremely heartwarming brick . (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289328-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...


At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff


From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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