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A book in which purpose and art intertwine successfully.

Chance Devlin, 12, entered a suicide pact with two of her friends. Her friends followed through. She did not.

The loss of her friends along with the guilt Chance feels for bailing on them results in a very difficult time. She loses her appetite and her will to function in her day-to-day life, and she must also deal with bullying in the form of harsh notes from her classmates, notes that Chance feels she deserves. Chance receives counseling and is also encouraged to journal her thoughts. Even with all this and the support of her parents, Chance is still doubtful at the prospect of improvement. And then a mysterious young fox begins appearing to Chance, and the connection made proves to be the help Chance needs to confront her past and begin to heal, effectively conveyed in a meticulous present-tense third-person narration. This slim book may prove helpful for young people experiencing depression or similar challenges, demonstrating the importance and benefit of having and drawing on a support system along with getting professional help. The loving presence and behavior of the adults in Chance’s life speak volumes, communicating a necessary message of unity. Chance is a white girl, but her Saskatchewan school is a diverse one, and she has several Indigenous classmates in her grade. An author interview, afterword on mental health, and internet resources will surely prove useful.

A book in which purpose and art intertwine successfully. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88995-552-3

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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A satisfying story of family, friendship and small-town cooperation in a 21st-century world.

Sent to stay with octogenarian relatives for the summer, 14-year-old Mike ends up coordinating a community drive to raise $40,000 for the adoption of a Romanian orphan. He’ll never be his dad's kind of engineer, but he learns he’s great at human engineering.

Mike’s math learning disability is matched by his widower father's lack of social competence; the Giant Genius can’t even reliably remember his son’s name. Like many of the folks the boy comes to know in Do Over, Penn.—his great-uncle Poppy silent in his chair, the multiply pierced-and-tattooed Gladys from the bank and “a homeless guy” who calls himself Past—Mike feels like a failure. But in spite of his own lack of confidence, he provides the kick start they need to cope with their losses and contribute to the campaign. Using the Internet (especially YouTube), Mike makes use of town talents and his own webpage design skills and entrepreneurial imagination. Math-definition chapter headings (Compatible Numbers, Zero Property, Tessellations) turn out to apply well to human actions in this well-paced, first-person narrative. Erskine described Asperger’s syndrome from the inside in Mockingbird (2010). Here, it’s a likely cause for the rift between father and son touchingly mended at the novel's cinematic conclusion.

A satisfying story of family, friendship and small-town cooperation in a 21st-century world. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25505-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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