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HARVEY TAKES THE LEAD

From the Harvey Stories series , Vol. 3

A solid, thought-provoking read that also includes light humor.

In the third series entry, Harvey, the West Highland white terrier; his young owner, Maggie; and her friend Austin confront drama and heartbreak.

Seventh grade pals Maggie and Austin, who volunteer at the Brayside Retirement Villa, meet Ms. Appleby, the facility’s strict new assistant director. She imposes draconian rules governing, among other things, visits by dogs. Additionally, Maggie’s dismayed she was overlooked for the lead in the school’s production of Annie, the role she coveted; she’s become the understudy instead. Besides that, Austin’s unemployed mom can’t afford his upcoming school trip. Brayside resident Mr. Kowalski faces the toughest struggle: His seriously ill wife has been hospitalized. Over time, he achieves emotional catharsis by recounting to sympathetic Austin some of his and Mrs. Kowalski’s World War II experiences. Meanwhile, Maggie puts her role in the play into perspective and befriends and supports the talented lead. In brief chapters this warm novel delivers well-realized characters and underscores connections that bind: those between animals and humans and those that unite generations. It also offers up satisfying endings, though some feel rushed. Maggie and Austin are caring and morally centered; Mr. Kowalski’s loving reminiscences are genuinely heart-tugging; and the Brayside residents are full of personality, even when handling physical challenges. Unfortunately, the novel missteps by frequently using the condescending term old people. Main characters default to White, but some names signal broader ethnic diversity.

A solid, thought-provoking read that also includes light humor. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-77278-240-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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FAKER

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences.

A con man’s son yearns for a different way of life.

Having helped his single dad fleece wealthy marks since kindergarten, Trey is adept at spotting their rich offspring in each new school he attends and cultivating them until the time comes for a quick getaway. Now that he’s 12, though, the urge to make real friends and put down some roots has become insistent—particularly since he’s drawn to Kaylee, a new classmate in his latest middle school. How can he convince his dad, who’s in the midst of luring local investors into a fantastically lucrative scheme involving a fictive electric car, that it’s time to bag the family profession and settle down? Korman goes more for ironic humor than the physical or stand-up sort in this book, as shown by Trey’s enrollment in an ethics class that forces him into some decidedly hypocritical stances. Much like Trey himself, instant new bestie Logan and his parents turn out to be not at all who they seem. And though there are no bullies or real baddies in the cast on the way to the story’s rosy but implausible resolution, Trey’s malign, high-strung, and wildly reckless huckster of a little sister from hell definitely adds both conflict and suspense to this provocative outing. Main characters read white.

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338826753

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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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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