Fantasy, history, folklore, memorable characters, and even a hint of humor converge for a great read.

THE CRYSTAL RIBBON

This hopeful coming-of-age story weaves together historical facts and spiritual/cultural beliefs to tell a tale of empowerment from the perspective of a poor, young female—one of the lowliest members of society in medieval China.

Using fitting metaphors and similes—“a metal wok as big as a wheel cart” and “fuzz…as curly as tea leaves”—debut author Lim effectively transports readers to a rural village in 1102 China. Jing, 11, an illiterate but intelligent farmer’s daughter, despises her name because her peers make fun of it. Her name, Jing (crystal), is a homonym for jing, animal spirits in the process of transforming into deities. However, Jing has bigger things to worry about when she’s married off to become a 3-year-old boy’s “wife” and, more realistically, nursemaid. Over the next few years, Jing endures much hardship. She is physically and emotionally tortured by her in-laws and eventually sold to a house of courtesans. Fortunately, Jing manages to escape and returns to her home village, but not without the help of several jing. As she and her companions adventure together, Jing realizes her destiny is intrinsically intertwined with the Great Golden Huli Jing, her village’s guardian fox jing. Although some of the dialogue and action may seem uncharacteristic of the time and culture, they are no distraction. Lim eloquently relates Jing’s journey from blindly obedient little girl to strong, confident young woman. In the end, Jing knows exactly what she wants, follows through, and finds refuge.

Fantasy, history, folklore, memorable characters, and even a hint of humor converge for a great read. (Historical fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-76703-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring.

MEASURING UP

An aspiring young chef discovers her innate resourcefulness and the courage of her convictions.

In this contemporary immigrant story, 12-year-old Cici moves from Taiwan to Seattle with her professional parents, who promote a straightforward formula for success: “good grades, good college, good job.” Cici, however, is sad to leave her grandmother and is determined to bring A-má to the United States for her 70th birthday. When a junior cooking contest presents the prospect of funding A-má’s airfare, Cici, an able chef, aims to win and begins making “American” foods. Working with her in-contest partner Miranda, Cici learns to make porcini risotto, not to overcook pasta, and that she is a super taster. This revelation reminds readers of the secret spice mixture that A-má taught Cici when she was little—will it help her win the contest? Similar hints of superhero identity lurk throughout this textured graphic novel filled with heart and humor, centering girls with budding ambitions, subverting tropes, and celebrating everyday heroes—including the librarian who introduces Cici to Julia Child. Word to the wise: Readers should not pick up this book while hungry unless they have treats nearby such as Taiwanese minced pork over rice, or at least a bubble tea to go with that pineapple cake and zucchini chocolate cookie.

Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring. (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297387-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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