It’s hard to write with such simple authenticity: The world needs more stories like this.


A geography-obsessed girl faces a summer of near-impossible change.

Eleven-year-old Ginny and her 12-year-old sister, Allie, already know they’re moving from North Carolina to Maryland the week after school lets out. Their dad is an Army doctor, and he’s transferred regularly. But Dad learns he’s instead being deployed to Afghanistan right away, just as they are about to move. Then, the geography camp Ginny was counting on gets canceled, and she’s wait-listed for the STEM magnet school. While her outgoing, athletic sister enjoys getting to know the kids in their new neighborhood, Ginny recites geography facts; reads about Marie Tharp, her favorite geographer; obsesses about her father, who isn’t responding to her messages; and makes a disastrous attempt at running her own geography camp. When her father finally calls, her emotions are overwhelming, and Ginny blows up—and then, gradually, realistically, and sympathetically, begins to understand other people’s points of view, try activities outside her comfort zone, and make friends without sacrificing or disguising her true self. It’s all very believable and very well done, from the wide range of fully developed characters to the realistic challenges of being a military family. Ginny’s quirky and engaging voice pushes this story to a lovely conclusion. Main characters read White; some of Ginny’s new neighborhood friends are Black and Indian American. Chapters open with interesting geography facts, and delightful spot art throughout enhances the text.

It’s hard to write with such simple authenticity: The world needs more stories like this. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9780316324625

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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. 18, 2019

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Certain to steal hearts.


In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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