May reassure readers with aging relatives facing Alzheimer’s.



A grandmother and granddaughter’s shared escapade bares unhappy truths.

Brainy, white, bespectacled Cricket Cohen, a Manhattan sixth-grader, thinks deep scientific thoughts. Her philanthropist parents don’t get her, nor she them. This isn’t Cricket’s only problem. While she revels in cosmic truths, she bends facts about her own life a lot. This alienates would-be friends and requires her to rewrite a mostly fabricated memoir. The person who appreciates Cricket most and to whom she doesn’t lie is her maternal grandmother, Dodo, a mischievous free spirit. Now living down the hall and attended by a paid helper, Dodo longs for independence and adventure. The opportunity arises when Cricket’s parents go out of town, leaving her with Dodo. The two take off, booking a posh Manhattan hotel room and dining and shopping in a pricey department store. Dramatic evidence of Dodo’s precarious mental state comes to the fore when store security holds her for shoplifting and alert the police, who take her and Cricket into protective custody. Alzheimer’s disease is gently explained, and the family concedes that help is needed. While Cricket and Dodo are sympathetic and well-portrayed, Cricket’s parents are stereotypes. Mrs. Cohen’s a self-absorbed, pushy workaholic; Mr. Cohen’s wishy-washy. The breezy, wink-wink depictions of NYC ethos become tiresome, though out-of-towners may appreciate some of the landmark references. The ending, Cricket’s poignant rewritten memoir, is realistic but hopeful.

May reassure readers with aging relatives facing Alzheimer’s. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30041-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.


In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.


In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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