MACI MASAKI MAKES HER MARK

From the We the Weirdos series

A nice, short, feel-good story about finding your place.

A recent immigrant to the United States, Maci must find her place at a new school.

Twelve-year-old Mitsuko Masaki, now going by Maci because Mitsuko is “too hard for Americans to pronounce,” has recently moved to New York from Tokyo. All she wants to do is keep to herself and draw manga. After Maci refuses to do what her parents asked, they lay down the law: She isn’t allowed to sleep in her room until it is cleaned, and she must join the school orchestra. At school, Maci sits next to Amy, a white girl who introduces her to the comic club. During lunch, Maci usually sits, unnoticed, under the “weirdos” table, but Eli and Jayden, both boys of color, discover her and convince her to join the “above-table kids.” With new friends and the comic club, Maci begins to find her place at her new school. This short chapter book is one of a quartet about the weirdos. With themes of being the new kid, making friends, and finding where you fit in, it has an interest level for upper-elementary students, but the brevity, straightforward first-person voice, and occasional illustrations make it an easy read. Maci also works to find a balance between her Japanese culture and American culture, struggling to understand American phrases and to negotiate Japanese practices that now feel out of place, which will feel familiar to many kids in a new environment.

A nice, short, feel-good story about finding your place. (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8208-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

GHOSTS

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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