More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read.

ABOUT AVERAGE

How can a plain girl with few talents possibly achieve the triumphal moment of a sixth-grader’s dreams?

Organized, orderly and all-around average, Jordan Johnston has a more pressing problem than fame in her last few weeks at Baird Elementary School. Classmate Marlea Harkins’ bullying seems as unwarranted as it is emotionally painful. Jordan’s solution is surprising: She fights back with niceness; at least it distracts. The tension rises as the warm, late-spring weather becomes more threatening and the heat frays tempers. The tornado that finally comes offers relief as well as an occasion for Jordan to demonstrate her strengths. As he has done so often before, Clements (Troublemaker, 2011, etc.) offers a comfortable third-person narrative, a convincing school story full of familiar sights and sounds, as well as a believable cast of characters. Unusually, Clements also models grown-ups with fulfilling, if ordinary lives—a radio-station meteorologist who weekends with the National Guard, an English teacher who provides books from his childhood collection for his students. Even the setting in central Illinois seems ordinary. What is extraordinary is how Clements can continue to produce realistic examples of kid power year after year.

More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9724-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and...

SYLVIA & AKI

Two third-grade girls in California suffer the dehumanizing effects of racial segregation after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1942 in this moving story based on true events in the lives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu.

Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and dispatched to an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., for the duration of World War II. As Aki endures the humiliation and deprivation of the hot, cramped barracks, she wonders if there’s “something wrong with being Japanese.” Sylvia’s Mexican-American family leases the Munemitsu farm. She expects to attend the local school but faces disappointment when authorities assign her to a separate, second-rate school for Mexican kids. In response, Sylvia’s father brings a legal action against the school district arguing against segregation in what eventually becomes a successful landmark case. Their lives intersect after Sylvia finds Aki’s doll, meets her in Poston and sends her letters. Working with material from interviews, Conkling alternates between Aki and Sylvia’s stories, telling them in the third person from the war’s start in 1942 through its end in 1945, with an epilogue updating Sylvia’s story to 1955.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-337-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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

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