Fans of quiet, nostalgic stories about team spirit should enjoy this debut effort.

A RAMBLER STEALS HOME

A rambling girl learns the meaning of home.

Home-schooled Derby Christmas Clark, 11, lives and travels year-round with her jovial single dad and 7-year-old brother in their Rambler RV. Every summer the white family returns to the same rural Virginia town, where, outside the run-down baseball stadium, the family sells hamburgers and fries to fans of the local minor league team. Having made this stop for years, the Clarks know the town and its citizens well. Derby is especially close to African-American Marcus, seemingly her age, and grandmotherly June, the box-office manager, also African-American. This particular summer brings unhappy news. Derby resolves to fix problems and effect change with the aid of family and friends; in the process, she uncovers some long-untold secrets. The plot unfolds over the course of two weeks in an unspecified year in June, and Derby recounts events and her thoughts in first person. Her simile-laden voice is genial and humorous, but her aphorisms and epiphanies about herself and others often seem too grown-up and self-aware. While Derby’s well-realized, other characters are drawn more superficially; some seem like stock types. Interpersonal relationships and the novel’s nostalgic sensibility evoke a cozy feel. The unoriginal plot—kid discovers family and home are wherever she is and galvanizes a whole town into helping a beloved neighbor—is satisfying, as is the pat happy ending.

Fans of quiet, nostalgic stories about team spirit should enjoy this debut effort. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-60201-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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