THE WORM WHISPERER

Animal-obsessed Ellis Coffey hopes his pet woolly caterpillar will win the race at the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival and its $1,000 purse so he can pay the deductible for his father’s back surgery.

Money is tight in Ellis' family, and the fourth-grader has more than the usual worries and responsibilities. He helps out a lot at home, but he still has time to explore the woods behind the family's blueberry farm in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. That’s where he finds the caterpillar he names Tink. Feeding her, dealing with her excrement (which, he learns, is called frass) and keeping her safe are some of the challenges he faces in this unusual pet story. Readers can’t help but admire this boy who is trying so hard to be helpful. At school, his teacher describes him as “class-clown-but-with-brains” and encourages his interest in new words. There is humor in Ellis’ efforts to keep Tink hidden on an outing to church and plenty of suspense right up to the race itself. And then there’s the question: Can Ellis really talk to animals like Mrs. Puckett, the horse whisperer? A satisfying ending neatly wraps up this warm story, and Hatke’s occasional line drawings will add appeal for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-490-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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A warm, real, and heartfelt tale.

WISH

Sent to stay with her aunt and uncle in Colby, North Carolina, an angry girl makes the same wish daily.

Charlie’s daddy’s in jail, her mama stays in bed all day, and her older sister’s living with a friend. Daily, the almost-11 white girl wishes for her broken family to heal. (The many ways she wishes form something of a catalog of folk and family traditions and are delightful all by themselves.) When the social worker sends her to live with Bertha and Gus, Charlie feels like “a loser that nobody wanted” and hates living with total strangers in a hillbilly town. Bertha and Gus, on the other hand, seem truly thrilled to have Charlie with them, even when she’s rude, sulking, or getting into trouble at school. Charlie doesn’t know what to make of affable, white Howard, the class geek, who walks with a limp and befriends her even though she ignores him. With Bertha and Gus, Charlie finds a stable, loving home. With Howard, Charlie finds a steadfast friend who helps her catch a stray dog she names Wishbone. After weeks living with Bertha and Gus, playing with Howard and Wishbone, and slowly fitting into Colby, Charlie learns Mama wants her to come home. But where is home? Speaking in an honest voice revealing her hurt, resentment, and vulnerability, Charlie explains how her wish comes true.

A warm, real, and heartfelt tale. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30273-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Korman’s fans will be right at home with this stand-alone novel.

SLACKER

From the Slacker series , Vol. 1

What could get the “Leonardo da Vinci of slackers” off his gaming couch?

Thirteen-year-old Cameron Boxer’s worked hard on his “lifestyle”: minimal effort at school and maximum time perfecting his gaming skills. His goal? Winning the Rule the World tournament with one of his two best friends, technical genius Pavel or loyal Chuck…but they have to avoid Evil McKillPeople, a Canadian gamer who for some reason has it in for Cam. Then the Great Ziti Inferno (Cam was too busy playing to take the ziti out of the oven as instructed) causes Cam’s parents to insist he unplug and do something with his life. The friends cook up a fake club, the Positive Action Group. They make Cam president and put a page on the school’s website, attracting the attention of do-gooder Daphne, who wants to save a beaver, class-president candidate Jordan, who needs a leg up in the election, along with reprobates and jocks who need to do community service. Suddenly the fake club is real, doing actual good, and sucking up valuable game time; that was never the plan! Prolific Korman turns in another group caper that would fit easily in his Swindle series. Cam’s borderline unlikable, and a few in the supporting cast don’t act like real people; but the tale, narrated by Cam and several others, is a pleasant diversion, though it’s not notable for its diversity.

Korman’s fans will be right at home with this stand-alone novel. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-82315-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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