Touching and unforgettable.

SECOND DAD SUMMER

A young man learns about Pride, tolerance, and acceptance in this heartwarming debut.

Iowan Jeremiah usually enjoys spending summers with his father, Al, a construction worker who lives in Minneapolis. Except now those summers include Al’s new boyfriend, Michael, a man with highlighted hair who drinks organic teas, rides around on a unicorn-themed bicycle, and comes across as way too gay for Jeremiah’s taste. As the summer progresses, Jeremiah’s friendships with Sage, a girl who lives close by with her moms, and Mr. Keeler, an older, gay next-door neighbor who shares his love of gardening, help him rethink his view of Michael and his beliefs about masculinity. Klas’ novel is a timely salute to the evolving picture of a traditional American family. The author’s mastery of this subject matter is evident in the smallest details of the world he creates, from the urban smells of a big city and the spirit of a Pride festival to Jeremiah’s angst over Michael’s use of nicknames reserved for his parents. Arroyo’s black-and-white cartoon illustrations give further texture to the story. Through Klas’ eminently likable young protagonist, readers enter a space where homosexuality and bisexuality are thoughtfully discussed and traditional ideas of masculinity are explored and challenged. The cast is default white, but the diversity within the LGBTQ community is thoughtfully presented, including in the persons of Sage and her mother Lisa, who are Hmong (Sage was conceived via artificial insemination).

Touching and unforgettable. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947159-242

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.

THE CLOCKWORK CROW

Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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