THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE

Two boys in Halifax, Nova Scotia, grow close as they encounter adolescent struggles and life changes.

Chronic overthinker Brian already faces severe social anxiety and isolation from his peers when his 13th birthday starts off about as badly as a birthday can go: His father leaves home, possibly on the run from the police, and his mother attempts suicide in response. Now, left with the responsibility of caring for his younger brother, Richie, and juggling the massive life changes that come in the aftermath, Brian can’t quite keep it all together. Thankfully, he isn’t completely alone: Ezra, an open-hearted fellow member of their school’s basketball team, feels a kinship (and possibly more) with quiet and elusive Brian. Together, the two boys offer support for one another as they come of age and try to find their best selves amid the turbulent times of seventh grade. Featuring snappy dialogue from earnest tween voices, skillful prose guides this engrossing story from start to finish. The themes and social commentary found here are gentle and organic—never heavy-handed—and the plot’s antagonists are far from two-dimensional, expertly reflecting real-life human complexity for a middle-grade audience. Ezra is of Trinidadian and Polish descent, Brian is implied White, and the supporting characters have a broad range of racial backgrounds.

Tenderhearted and bold. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5102-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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