Fans of the series will revel in this smart, quirky YA novel that’s ripe with substance beyond the surface.

THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE

THE RUSSEL MIDDLEBROOK SERIES, VOLUME 4

In Hartinger’s (The Order of the Poison Oak, 2005, etc.) newest YA installment in the Russel Middlebrook series, Russel finds his wishes for adventure unexpectedly granted in the form of a counterculture-loving, Dumpster-diving new guy.

While instant messaging his boyfriend—Otto, who’s 800 miles away but a great friend—Russel suddenly realizes they’ve become just friends. Otto understands that Russel wants more than text on the screen, so they decide to break up. This is just what Russel needs: an opportunity to forsake love and welcome adventure. Yet not 24 hours after breaking up with Otto, and despite his claims against love and guys, Russel finds himself guiltily, and weirdly, attracted to Wade, a tight-shirt–wearing, beefy, black 19-year-old who pops out of a Dumpster. Wade is a “freegan” living off society’s refuse and discarded consumerism, though he’s not a bum or homeless. Rather, he’s smart and invigorating—just the kind of adventure Russel has been looking for. But perhaps too much of one. In true-to-character, first-person prose, Hartinger reveals the psychological and social conundrums of a lovesick, somewhat self-involved gay boy in high school. Teenage readers, homosexual or not, will find the confident, slang-heavy prose easy to understand, especially since Russel’s and his friends’ mindsets are warmly personal yet identifiable. When Russel’s life doesn’t go exactly as he expects, Hartinger shows how “the planet exploded, and the sun winked out, and gravity stopped working, and our entire solar system was sucked into a big black hole.” Along with the edifying main plotline, which will appeal to readers of any age, the well-conceived subplots won’t disappoint young readers looking for the juicy gossip that runs through the series. With Russel, there’s always drama—real and perceived—but definitely no lack of love.

Fans of the series will revel in this smart, quirky YA novel that’s ripe with substance beyond the surface.

Pub Date: March 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0984679454

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Buddha Kitty Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

With the same delightfully irreverent spirit that he brought to his retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" (1987), Marshall enlivens another favorite. Although completely retold with his usual pungent wit and contemporary touches ("I don't mind if I do," says Goldilocks, as she tries out porridge, chair, and bed), Marshall retains the stories well-loved pattern, including Goldilocks escaping through the window (whereupon Baby Bear inquires, "Who was that little girl?"). The illustrations are fraught with delicious humor and detail: books that are stacked everywhere around the rather cluttered house, including some used in lieu of a missing leg for Papa Bear's chair; comically exaggerated beds—much too high at the head and the foot; and Baby Bear's wonderfully messy room, which certainly brings the story into the 20th century. Like its predecessor, perfect for several uses, from picture-book hour to beginning reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140563660

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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