Provocative and fun, from a master of the school story.

ZERO TOLERANCE

After turning in a paring knife she accidentally brought to school with her lunch, a high-achieving, rule-following seventh-grade girl is suspended, and her case becomes a media sensation.

Rules require exceptions, people are more complex than they seem, and bigheartedness trumps revenge: These are some of the many themes author Mills takes on in this idea-stuffed, somewhat overpopulated but thought-provoking novel. No one is more surprised than the slightly smug Sierra Shepard when she goes from teacher’s pet to class pariah. Before you can say “knife fight,” she’s clapped into the duller-than-dull in-class suspension room and given a hearing date for likely expulsion. This enrages Sierra’s hard-driving attorney father, who alerts the media, bringing attention to her plight. Unfortunately, it also puts the well-meaning Principal Besser between a rock and a hard place and stirs conflict with Sierra’s artsy mother. Being treated like a criminal causes Sierra to do something surprisingly rotten that could upend her case, and, straining credibility, Principal Besser has a secret he’d rather not reveal. Ideas and personalities compete for page time, giving some of the scenes a sketchy feel, but readers should be fully engaged by the suspenseful climax. Sierra learns that her fellow detainees are sympathetic individuals, particularly her always-in-trouble classmate, Luke Bishop, and ultimately, the situation gives her a more nuanced perspective and generosity of spirit.

Provocative and fun, from a master of the school story. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-33312-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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

GHOSTS

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 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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