A necessary narrative with an ambiguous design

TAKEN AWAY

Debut author Bermudez kicks off a new series focusing on the relationship between two brothers separated by the foster-care system.

Isaac still remembers how the arroz con leche splattered everywhere the day the police came for him and his siblings, the broken bowl and scattered rice a resonant metaphor for how his family had fallen apart. Older brother Victor tells Isaac not to worry about the rice; as the oldest, Victor is the stiff upper lip for the family, determined to keep it together despite the siblings’ physical separation. Isaac and Victor manage to stay in touch via email, sharing their thoughts and struggles with new foster parents, school bullies, and mysterious neighbors. Through it all they hold out hope for mending their family and all finding their way back to one another. The story is sincere and heartfelt; though brief, it packs an emotional punch and does so without sacrificing character and plot. The brevity makes it an appealing option for reluctant and low literacy readers who still want a sustained story. A bit of an abrupt ending will have readers eager to see if the boys’ wishes are ultimately fulfilled. Isaac and Victor are both of Mexican descent. The book’s design may have readers confused, with a cover that looks like a YA thriller and (uncredited) interior illustrations that look distinctly childlike.

A necessary narrative with an ambiguous design . (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8230-1

Page Count: 90

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey.

A WOLF CALLED WANDER

Separated from his pack, Swift, a young wolf, embarks on a perilous search for a new home.

Swift’s mother impresses on him early that his “pack belongs to the mountains and the mountains belong to the pack.” His father teaches him to hunt elk, avoid skunks and porcupines, revere the life that gives them life, and “carry on” when their pack is devastated in an attack by enemy wolves. Alone and grieving, Swift reluctantly leaves his mountain home. Crossing into unfamiliar territory, he’s injured and nearly dies, but the need to run, hunt, and live drives him on. Following a routine of “walk-trot-eat-rest,” Swift traverses prairies, canyons, and deserts, encountering men with rifles, hunger, thirst, highways, wild horses, a cougar, and a forest fire. Never imagining the “world could be so big or that I could be so alone in it,” Swift renames himself Wander as he reaches new mountains and finds a new home. Rife with details of the myriad scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights in Swift/Wander’s primal existence, the immediacy of his intimate, first-person, present-tense narration proves deeply moving, especially his longing for companionship. Realistic black-and-white illustrations trace key events in this unique survival story, and extensive backmatter fills in further factual information about wolves and their habitat.

A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey. (additional resources, map) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289593-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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