Heroic deeds, narrow escapes, dastardly villains, amazing coincidences and a family rich in love and hope are all part of an...

CITY OF ORPHANS

An immigrant family tries to survive crime, poverty and corruption in 1893 New York City.

Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs in this year of economic panic is an endless struggle for every member of the family. Every penny counts, even the eight cents daily profit 13-year-old Maks earns by selling newspapers. Maks also must cope with violent attacks by a street gang and its vicious leader, who in turn is being manipulated by someone even more powerful. Now Maks’ sister has been wrongly arrested for stealing a watch at her job in the glamorous Waldorf Hotel and is in the notorious Tombs prison awaiting trial. How will they prove her innocence? Maks finds help and friendship from Willa, a homeless street urchin, and Bartleby Donck, an eccentric lawyer. Avi’s vivid recreation of the sights and sounds of that time and place is spot on, masterfully weaving accurate historical details with Maks’ experiences as he encounters the city of sunshine and shadow. An omniscient narrator speaks directly to readers, establishing an immediacy that allows them to feel the characters’ fears and worries and hopes.

Heroic deeds, narrow escapes, dastardly villains, amazing coincidences and a family rich in love and hope are all part of an intricate and endlessly entertaining adventure. Terrific! (Historical fiction. 10-14) 

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7102-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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An honest, emotionally rich take on disability, family, and growing up.

ROLL WITH IT

A middle schooler with cerebral palsy faces a new school and family upheaval in Sumner’s debut.

Twelve-year-old Ellie Cowan dreams of becoming a great baker; when she’s not penning letters to celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes. But sometimes—especially when her single mom’s protectiveness goes overboard—her CP feels like “the Go to Jail card in Monopoly: No matter where you are, it always shoots you back to zero.” When Ellie and her mom temporarily move from Nashville, Tennessee, to Eufaula, Oklahoma, to help care for Grandpa, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, Ellie struggles with being not only “the new kid in the wheelchair” at school, but one of the ostracized “trailer park kids.” But after Ellie befriends outspoken aspiring singer Coralee and fact-reciting “mega geek” Bert (who is, Ellie observes, “probably on the spectrum” but undiagnosed in this small town with little support), the quirky trio find themselves cooking up ways for Ellie to stay—“maybe forever.” Her voice equal parts vulnerable, reflective, and deliciously wry, Ellie is refreshingly complex. Kids navigating disabilities may find her frank frustration with inaccessibility, illness, and patronization particularly cathartic, but readers with and without disabilities will recognize her desire to belong. The mother of a son with CP, the author portrays Ellie and her mom’s loving but fraught relationship with achingly vivid accuracy, bringing the tension between Ellie’s craving for independence and her mother’s fears to a satisfying resolution. Characters, including Ellie, appear white.

An honest, emotionally rich take on disability, family, and growing up. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4255-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Inspired by Malala Yousafzai and countless unknown girls like her, Saeed’s timely and stirring middle-grade debut is a...

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AMAL UNBOUND

A Pakistani girl’s dreams of an education dissolve when she is forced into indentured servitude.

Bookish Amal, who lives in a small village in Punjab, Pakistan, dreams of becoming a teacher and a poet. When she inadvertently insults Jawad, the son of her village’s wealthy and influential, but corrupt, landlord, Khan Sahib, she is forced into indentured servitude with his family. Jawad assures Amal’s father that she will be “treated like all my servants, no better, no worse” and promises him that he will “let her visit twice a year like the others.” Once in her enslaver’s home, Amal is subject to Jawad’s taunts, which are somewhat mitigated by the kind words of his mother, Nasreen Baji, whose servant she becomes. Amal keeps her spirits up by reading poetry books that she surreptitiously sneaks from the estate library and teaching the other servant girls how to read and write. Amal ultimately finds a friend in the village’s literacy center—funded, ironically enough, by the Khan family—where she befriends the U.S.–educated teacher, Asif, and learns that the powerful aren’t invincible. Amal narrates, her passion for learning, love for her family, and despair at her circumstance evoked with sympathy and clarity, as is the setting.

Inspired by Malala Yousafzai and countless unknown girls like her, Saeed’s timely and stirring middle-grade debut is a celebration of resistance and justice. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-54468-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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