This story’s as sweet as Della’s daddy’s watermelons but never saccharine.

WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW

Della painfully learns she can’t fix her schizophrenic mother, but maybe the 12-year-old can heal herself.

It’s bad enough that her daddy’s watermelons, the sweetest in all of North Carolina, are in jeopardy because of disease and drought, now Della’s mama is acting “crazy” again, hearing voices that warn her to keep germs away from Della and her baby sister, Mylie. The preteen knows that her mother’s schizophrenia surfaced when she was born and blames herself for her mother’s condition. Della’s also heard stories, passed down through her small town, about the miraculous powers of the honey from Miss Tabitha‘s backyard hives. Della makes it her mission to cure her mama and is certain Miss Tabitha’s honey will do the trick. Her first-person narration is realistically earthy without crossing into gritty. The math-loving girl witnesses some of her mother’s breakdowns and assumes most of Mylie’s care, but she’s still very much a child, not yet ready for the boys and kissing she hears come with seventh grade. As her mother’s health fades, Della finds she has other strong women in her life, including Miss Lorena, who’s experienced her own tragic loss. As Della accepts that her mother will always be sick (though never “crazy” anymore, and the text makes the term’s harmfulness quite clear throughout), Miss Tabitha’s honey does work, giving this spunky girl the resilience to overcome hardship. This debut novel gushes with Southern charm and depicts a warm, compassionate community where white families like Della’s and Miss Tabitha’s live amicably alongside black families like Miss Lorena’s.

This story’s as sweet as Della’s daddy’s watermelons but never saccharine. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266586-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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