SMALL MERCIES

Sensitive, funny, and tender.

Set in post-apartheid Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, this realistic story traces protagonist Mercy’s quest to speak up for truth and, consequently, for herself.

Eleven-year-old Mercy has lived with her two elderly foster mothers—“Aunt Flora” and “Aunt Mary” McKnight—since she was orphaned at the age of 5. Although their home is filled with love, the McKnight sisters are so poor that they reuse tea bags as many as four to five times and most of the furniture has been sold. To make matters worse, Aunt Flora is slowly losing her memory to Alzheimer’s, and their beloved house seems to be falling apart just as a greedy housing developer is eying their property. Painfully shy and reserved, Mercy struggles to cope with her school assignments and her complicated home life as she tries very hard not to stand out. When Mr. Singh moves into the McKnight house as a lodger, his stories about Gandhi’s peaceful struggle for independence inspire Mercy to stand up for herself. Krone’s characters are diverse, convincing, and full of life. The McKnight sisters are White, Mercy has dark skin and is likely of mixed heritage, Mr. Singh is Indian, and Mercy’s classmates are representative of South Africa’s diverse communities. The story stands on its own, but readers unfamiliar with South Africa might also benefit from concurrent research or discussion about South African history, cultures, and languages.

Sensitive, funny, and tender. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-946395-17-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Catalyst Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

WRECKING BALL

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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