A finely wrought, magical coming-of-age tale with a convincing message.

ME AND MARVIN GARDENS

King, who writes as A.S. King for teens, offers a mystical, fablelike tale for a younger audience.

Obe (pronounced “oh-bee”) has grown up on the only remaining creekside sliver of the century-plus–old Devlin family farm, most of which his great-grandfather lost to his drinking habit 100 years before, a tale that’s sketched in brief chapters that alternate with the white boy’s story. Alone by the creek, he discovers a remarkable creature, beagle-sized, hooved, and winsome. He calls it Marvin Gardens. Marvin’s most remarkable trait is what he eats—only plastic. Since his best friend betrayed him months ago, Obe has mostly been on his own, and he keeps his discovery secret, although the subdivision that’s being developed around the creek imperils Marvin’s safety. It’s only after the animal is spotted by others, then shot with a paintball, that Obe confides in a trusted and kindly teacher. Although the environmental theme is pounded home with a somewhat heavy hand, the gently nuanced fantastical elements gain a neat believability as related in Obe’s genial, observant, and sweetly introspective narrative voice. It’s just right for a sensitive sixth-grader with a growing self- and world awareness trying to navigate the troubled waters of uncertain friendships and demeaning bullying.

A finely wrought, magical coming-of-age tale with a convincing message. (Fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-87074-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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