In divorcing this protagonist of color from her background, this novel misses the mark

PAVI SHARMA'S GUIDE TO GOING HOME

Twelve-year-old Pavi Sharma, who has bounced from foster home to foster home, has become a small-business owner of sorts: For a fee (Hot Cheetos), she teaches other foster children what she has learned.

When she learns that 5-year-old Meridee is to be placed in Pavi’s traumatic first foster home, she pulls together a ragtag gang—her foster mother’s biological son, Hamilton; his best friend, Piper; and Santos, a formidable eighth grader who is also a foster child—in order to save Meridee from Pavi’s fate. Pavi reads like a standard-issue plucky and quirky (she likes Cheetos and stationery) middle-grade heroine. She is Indian American, but she has no real connection to her cultural background even though she lived with her troubled, Hindi-speaking mother till she was 9. Indeed, Marjorie, Pavi’s current foster mother, makes an effort to learn to make “Indian food,” including a “few types of curries” and “treats like samosas and biryani,” but Pavi is actively incurious. Whether this is due to trauma or not, the failure of the narrative to flesh out her background leaves readers with a flattened, generic sense of India and its cultures. The book includes a fun subplot involving Piper’s YouTube beauty channel and Hamilton’s participation in a goth makeup tutorial. But readers will want to know more about Pavi’s past and her place in the world, beyond just being a foster child. Meridee and Santos are children of color, reflecting foster-child demographics, while Marjorie, Hamilton, and Piper are white.

In divorcing this protagonist of color from her background, this novel misses the mark . (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-49106-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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