Lovers of hip, edgy or meta should look elsewhere, but this story carries its own brand of modest delight for the right...



Crammed with incident, yet loose and rambling and without much dramatic arc, this slice-of-life novel, the sixth in the series, charts Willa’s life, loves and personal growth though part of an event-filled summer.

There’s something refreshing and rather fabulous about the slightly dull Willa Havisham books (Willa by Heart, 2008, etc.). They star the nicest, most well-adjusted, dependable 14-year-old in the world, a book-loving girl who does her chores in the family business with good grace, loves the nurturing, community-minded adults in her life and strives to be the best person she can be. She doesn’t wear Jimmy Choos, obsess about her weight or, heaven forbid, smoke (anything); instead she tries to come up with a charitable project that’s really her. Not to say there’s no conflict. Willa wrestles with her feelings about her once-best friend, has minor disagreements with her driven businesswoman mother and is distressed (but also exhilarated) when she finds herself attracted to two boys at the same time. Set in a charming, fictional Cape Cod community, the story strolls along, never generating a great deal of heat or suspense, yet managing to keep readers involved and interested.

Lovers of hip, edgy or meta should look elsewhere, but this story carries its own brand of modest delight for the right reader. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-09405-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.


For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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