A heroine struggles to find her way back from despair and anger to joy and acceptance in this highly relatable tale for...

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MOLLY BELL AND THE WISHING WELL

A young girl, wanting things back the way they used to be before her mother died, pins her hopes on a wishing well in this debut middle-grade novel.

Molly Bell’s beloved father has just remarried. The 11-year-old girl, still grieving her mother’s death two years before, feels cross and abandoned as Dad and her stepmom, Faith, go on their honeymoon. They leave the tween and Faith’s 6-year-old son, Henry, in the care of Molly’s grandparents on their farm. Although Molly tries to make the best of it and finds comfort working outdoors, she resents her grandparents’ attention to Henry and can’t untangle her emotions, feeling unloved and unlovable. She has compounded her unhappiness by giving up the sport she excelled at—soccer—due to misplaced guilt. A remote old wishing well on the property becomes the focus of her dreams (“It looked ancient, like old ruins that she had just discovered. It was as if Molly had been transported to a far away place in time. The bricks and stones were covered with overgrown weeds, making the well seem like it was almost alive”). She wishes for her mother, a best friend, and a life without Henry and Faith. In unexpected ways, some of her wishes come true. But does Molly actually hold the key to her own happiness? Geraghty clearly respects her tween audience, inviting empathy for each character with touching and realistic revelations of what lies underneath Henry’s brattiness, for instance, and Grandpa’s abruptness. Helping Molly heal are a lonely dog and the girl’s growing awareness of the vulnerabilities of others (including Grandpa, who lost his leg and his best friend in Vietnam). That Molly finds her way through turmoil is predictable, but she also recognizes the impact of her self-pity and rage. The author shapes Molly’s journey with a deft and informed touch while deepening the narrative with vivid imagery: “Grandpa Cody gazed out his passenger side window, his leathery skin illuminated by the glow of the sunrise and his long grey ponytail waving gently in the breeze. A slow and hearty country song played on the radio.”

A heroine struggles to find her way back from despair and anger to joy and acceptance in this highly relatable tale for tweens.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5410-3400-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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