Fast-paced and warmhearted with a satisfying conclusion.

THE GILDED GIRL

A young magician learns about social justice the hard way.

Twelve-year-old Emma Harris is the new girl at posh Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic, where she will learn to kindle, a complicated process in which elite girls undergo a Kindling Ceremony to harness their magical abilities. The setting is early-1900s Manhattan, with a twist—the wealthy have powers that give them all they need or desire while the poor are snuffed, or deprived of their magic. Emma, whose Mama is dead, has a close bond with her Papa, a brilliant magitect whose high expectations she hopes to live up to. When disaster strikes, Emma is summarily deprived of her wealthy trappings and forced into servitude by the mercenary, two-faced Miss Posterity. Determined to avoid the workhouse, Emma buckles down and is befriended by the school maid, Izzy O’Donnell. Aided by house dragon Figgy, the girls hatch a plot to kindle themselves and escape. Emma’s true personality comes to the fore in extremis, and she learns compassion for others, regardless of class. With plenty of drama and heroic rescues, this fantasy holds a lot of appeal for magic-loving readers, including fun touches like bland food that becomes delicious with the touch of a crystal and rooms that move around, Hogwarts style. Main characters are White; some secondary characters reflect the diversity of New York City.

Fast-paced and warmhearted with a satisfying conclusion. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-31393-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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

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This 2015 New Visions Award winner offers a complex narrative and inspires readers to check their privilege to address...

AHIMSA

Although Kelkar’s debut novel takes place in colonial India in the 1940s, when Indian citizens were fighting for independence from British rule, it is uncannily timely: 10-year old Anjali grapples with issues of social justice in many of the same ways young people are today.

When Anjali’s mother quits her job to become a freedom fighter, Anjali is reluctant to join the struggle, as it means she will have to eschew her decorated skirts and wear home-spun khadi (hand-woven cotton) instead, inviting the mockery of her school nemeses. But as her relationship with her mother evolves, her experience of and commitment to activism change as well. When her mother is imprisoned and commences a hunger strike, Anjali continues her work and begins to unlearn her prejudices. According to an author’s note, Kelkar was inspired by the biography of her great-grandmother Anasuyabai Kale, and the tale is enriched by the author’s proximity to the subject matter and access to primary sources. Kelkar also complicates Western impressions of Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi—Anjali realizes that Gandhi is flawed—and introduces readers to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a figure rarely mentioned in texts for young people in the United States but who is best known for campaigning against social discrimination of Dalits, or members of India’s lower castes.

This 2015 New Visions Award winner offers a complex narrative and inspires readers to check their privilege to address ongoing injustices. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62014-356-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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