A beautiful and poignant tale of immigration fused with Tagalog myth.


A Pilipino mother recounts a bedtime story about gods and her own family mythology.

Speaking in free verse, Elsie, mother to young mixed-race girls Stella and Luna (their dad is White), weaves a moving and ethereal story about family, loss, pain, and hope. Beautifully steeped in Pilipino culture and cosmology, the story she tells is that of Mayari, the moon goddess, and how she came to make it her life’s work to reflect light. Her heartfelt narration brings the gods to life. Mayari and her siblings, Apolaki and Tala, believe they have humble beginnings but later learn their father is Bathala Maykapal, or God Creator. Forced to choose between Earth and Heaven, the siblings take only what they can carry and follow their father to Heaven despite their fears. Their fight to belong with the other gods mirrors Elsie’s other tale, that of her family’s tumultuous immigration to the United States from the Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos’ reign amid violent protests and rolling blackouts. Like Mayari, Elsie could bring only so much with her and was forced to leave behind more than her toys—like the yayas, or nannies, who cared for her and the neighborhood she grew up in. Woven together in captivating parallels, Elsie’s and Mayari’s stories (the former in black type and the latter in light blue) reflect the struggle and hardship many immigrants face in search of a new life. Sometimes raw and traumatic, other times hopeful and inspiring, Elsie’s bedtime story rings true, encapsulating the heart of Pilipino culture.

A beautiful and poignant tale of immigration fused with Tagalog myth. (glossary, songs, afterword) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11220-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...


Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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