A heartfelt tale with classy, indelible characters.

THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN

A new neighbor brings change and mystery to rising seventh grader Alberta Freeman-Price.

Despite the fact that Alberta and her dads are some of the small number of Black people in Ewing Beach, California, Alberta leads a pretty chill life, surfing and eating ice cream with her best friend, Laramie. Then the bed-and-breakfast across the street is taken over by new neighbors from New York, a Black single mom and her goth daughter, Edie. The fact that Edie is Black fuses the bond between the two. When Edie discovers mysterious journals in the attic of the B&B, she shares them with Alberta. The author of the journals was Constance, a young woman who apparently worked as a nanny in the building during the 1950s. The girls’ obsession with the journals combines with their emerging friendship to cause Alberta to feel torn between Laramie, who is White, and Edie. While Alberta and Edie juggle the awkward, sometimes-painful dynamics of middle school friendships, bullies, and racism, their research into the journals leads the girls to a discovery of family and racial dynamics that transcends time. Colbert’s middle-grade debut, centering Black girls who represent a range of experiences, deserves a standing ovation. Alberta’s narration is perceptive and accessible as she navigates race in America in the past and present.

A heartfelt tale with classy, indelible characters. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45638-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.

MY LIFE AS A POTATO

The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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