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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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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