Uplifting and clever, Mutén’s tale also includes a layer of biographical detail sure to tantalize Dickinson lovers...

MISS EMILY

The Belle of Amherst leads some young friends on a grand adventure.

Drawing on Dickinson’s playfulness and delight in children, Mutén fashions this light verse story told from the perspective of young MacGregor “Mac” Jenkins, the pastor’s son who lived across the street from the Dickinson residence (in real life) and was a playmate of the poet’s niece and nephew. With the help of Phelan’s wispy, textured drawings, Mutén imagines the famously reclusive poet playfully disguised as “Proserpina—Queen of the Night,” leading her tiny band of “Amherst gypsies” on a midnight quest to spy the arrival of the Great Golden Menagerie and Circus at the Amherst train station. Both poet and children thrill at the opportunity to meet a fortuneteller and witness the unloading of exotic circus animals, but as they speed home to avoid being recognized, Mac falls and injures himself. Mac’s resulting convalescence, landing him “housebound / like a winter bee in the hive,” draws not only an unprecedented visit from “Miss Emily,” but the chance for her to treat Mac and friends to another tale. It also gives Mutén an apt occasion to weave in a bit of actual correspondence from the poet to the children outlining her wish: “Please never improve—you are perfect now.”

Uplifting and clever, Mutén’s tale also includes a layer of biographical detail sure to tantalize Dickinson lovers everywhere. (biographical notes, bibliography) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5734-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

WORDS WITH WINGS

In this delightfully spare narrative in verse, Coretta Scott King Award–winning Grimes examines a marriage’s end from the perspective of a child.

Set mostly in the wake of her father’s departure, only-child Gabby reveals with moving clarity in these short first-person poems the hardship she faces relocating with her mother and negotiating the further loss of a good friend while trying to adjust to a new school. Gabby has always been something of a dreamer, but when she begins study in her new class, she finds her thoughts straying even more. She admits: “Some words / sit still on the page / holding a story steady. / … / But other words have wings / that wake my daydreams. / They … / tickle my imagination, / and carry my thoughts away.” To illustrate Gabby’s inner wanderings, Grimes’ narrative breaks from the present into episodic bursts of vivid poetic reminiscence. Luckily, Gabby’s new teacher recognizes this inability to focus to be a coping mechanism and devises a daily activity designed to harness daydreaming’s creativity with a remarkably positive result for both Gabby and the entire class. Throughout this finely wrought narrative, Grimes’ free verse is tight, with perfect breaks of line and effortless shifts from reality to dream states and back.

An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-985-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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