Middle-grade storytelling at its very best—extraordinary.

THE SWALLOW

A GHOST STORY

Spooky tension, friendship and compassion permeate this exquisitely plotted middle-grade ghost story.

Polly wants to see ghosts, and Rose can’t stop seeing them. When the two 12-year-olds first meet, hearing each other through the adjoining wall in the attics of their adjacent row houses, Polly is convinced Rose is a ghost—until they meet in person, and even then she’s not sure. Rose certainly looks ghostly, with her pale face, shadowed eyes, and dark, wild hair, and Polly’s twin brothers, Matthew and Mark, are concerned enough to warn Polly away from Rose, afraid she will steal Polly’s soul. But the girls continue their secret friendship, trying to uncover the mystery of Rose’s aunt Winnifred, who, they discover, died at 13 and who, they think, is haunting Rose’s attic. As related in first-person narration that switches from Polly to Rose and back again, even within chapters, the story structure weaves its way in and out—riveting and tumbling with tension but never obvious, leaving readers wondering if anything is really as it seems. The protagonists are both spooky and delightfully down-to-earth, and readers will seesaw between chills and snorts of laughter. When Cotter delivers the final twist, it is a denouement that becomes a springboard for greater revelations that lead to even greater reader satisfaction.

Middle-grade storytelling at its very best—extraordinary. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77049-591-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer.

WE ARE FAMILY

Basketball is life in Lorain, Ohio.

A group of seventh graders have different reasons for joining Hoop Group, an elite youth basketball program. Jayden, who lives in a tiny, cramped house with his mother and grandmother, desperately needs the money playing for the NBA would bring. Chris’ uncle made it out of Lorain and into the NBA, but he doesn’t share his uncle’s skills and can’t quite live up to his father’s expectations. Tamika’s dad was Hoop Group’s coach before Parkinson’s disease put the team’s future in jeopardy; she has a lot to prove and dreams of being the next Pat Summitt. Dex and his hardworking single mom are struggling with poverty, but he just loves the game––especially the Cleveland Cavs. And Anthony, frankly, doesn’t have much of a choice; it was either join this character-building group or face expulsion from school. A makeshift team of preteens with a lot on their plates, they discover as much about themselves (and one another) off the court as they do on it. The authors present a convincing argument about the value of basketball beyond points on the board and big contracts. The characters’ dreams are relatable along with the book’s universally valuable emphasis on hard work and perseverance. But the specifics about what it takes to make it in basketball and the fast-paced on-court action provide something special for young fans of the game. Main characters read as Black.

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297109-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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