Engrossing, satisfying, and compassionate.

BRINGING ME BACK

A boy, desperate and broken, and a young bear with its head caught in a bucket: Vrabel (Pack of Dorks, 2016, etc.) sensitively interweaves these two disparate plotlines.

Noah only gradually reveals the depth and breadth of his issues. His mom’s in jail for a third drunken driving offense. He’s living with her most recent boyfriend but lacks faith that any adult, even steadfast Jeff, can be relied upon. A year ago, right after his mom’s arrest, Noah tackled a mentally disabled kid on his own football team, his brutality leading to the league’s revoking their championship and barring the team altogether. And then there was the shoplifting incident that followed. Now it seems like everyone hates Noah—even teachers and school administrators, who disparage him and view him as a hopeless case. The only exception is Rina, a smart, unpopular classmate who remembers who Noah once was and understands both his journey to despair and a possible path to redemption. Together they launch a campaign to save the bear, and along the way, they save Noah, too. The characters’ races aren’t revealed and therefore imply the white default. Noah’s first-person narration is spot-on, age appropriate and full of anger with brief flashes of insight. The trope is well-worked; this effort rises above the pack, believable and ultimately uplifting.

Engrossing, satisfying, and compassionate. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2527-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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