THE VERDIGRIS PAWN

Power, truth, and revolution for the middle-grade set.

In the Land, Himself rules with military force. The wealthiest citizens live in Topend; the middle class live in Upper and Lower Middlelands, names that also describe their income levels. Everyone else scrapes by in the Bottom, which is still reeling from the battles when Himself ruthlessly went after anyone who could make charms, including his own wife. Beau, Himself’s heir, lives in ignorance in the Manor until a chance meeting with smart, talented Cressi shows him the true cost of his comfort, including the starving children taken by the Manor to pay their parents’ debts. When Cressi is imprisoned, Beau takes off with plucky Nate in search of a real-world ace—the mastermind figure in the chesslike game of Fist—to help him save Cressi and make the world fairer. Cressi, meanwhile, has her own adventures (and is the clear winner in every one). Everything and everyone’s being a take on a trope, combined with tissue-paper–thin worldbuilding, leads to an almost allegorical feel, as if it’s all a game of Fist played out with people. The lack of true obstacles (despite grim backstories, everything on-page works out) makes for an unexpectedly light take on young teens overthrowing a despotic government. Limited physical descriptions point to a White default.

Simple but charming. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-290805-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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