THE BIG HOUSE

“No!” Ivy shouts in the courtroom when her parents are sentenced to 25 years in jail for embezzlement. Sure, they’d been to jail before, but never together, and never for so long. When Ivy and her younger brother Ray are sent to live with the very same rich septuagenarian couple who sent their parents “up the river,” Ivy (a quick-study of her dad’s shady dealings and of various courtroom dramas) decrees that they will spend their days scouring the sumptuous mansion for evidence that will acquit her parents. Left to their own devices, the siblings hide out in a rhododendron bush, sentence a fleet of international dolls to do time (“Ivy gave Miss Canada life”), and generally “case the joint.” Ivy is as surprised as anyone when their obsessive hunt actually turns up evidence that forever changes everyone’s fate. This funny, thoroughly entertaining change of pace for Coman seamlessly blends fantasy and reality in that wonderful way children can, and Shepperson’s splendid, Quentin Blake–style illustrations further enliven an engaging story of espionage, family loyalty, and justice prevailing. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2004

ISBN: 1-932425-09-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things.

THE PERFECT SCORE

From the Perfect Score series , Vol. 1

Middle school students contend with standardized tests.

Flawed and gifted in equal amounts, Natalie, Randi, Trevor, Mark, Gavin, and Scott, whether they know it or not, are all looking for solutions. Multiple points of view within the conceit of an investigation of a standardized-test cheating scheme focus on each student’s personal, social, and familial issues, tackled in different ways with support from their teachers and friends. However, many of the fixes are formulaic or temporary—for example, though they’ve made friendships or improved in reading, there are no plans in place for the kids with behavioral or learning disorders—and readers will have to think outside of the book and past the happy ending to realize that the problems haven’t been fully solved. While the negative impact of standardized tests on students is addressed provocatively, the sometimes-facile treatment of other problems—an abusive brother, parental judgement and criticism, relative poverty, ethical conundrums, friendlessness, dyslexia, impulse control—lends the book a superficial air. (Race is not an issue explored, as the book seems to subscribe to the white default.) Still, readers will be drawn in by the lively voices and eventful lives of these likable and engaging students and may gain some insight and empathy into the plights of others.

An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93825-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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