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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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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

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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