A good-hearted road trip stalls on thin secondary characterizations

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE

Ever since the accident that killed her mother and two sisters five years ago, Coyote Sunrise, now 12, and her father, Rodeo, have lived on the road in a converted yellow school bus and followed their whims.

The only place they will not go is back to their hometown…until Coyote’s grandma tells her the park where she, her mother, and her sisters buried a memory box is slated for destruction in just a few days. Now she must figure out how to steer her father back. In true road-trip–novel fashion, Coyote manages with the help of strangers: Lester, a jilted musician; Salvador and his mother, fleeing domestic abuse; and teenage Val, kicked out because she’s gay. Gemeinhart crafts an enormously appealing protagonist in Coyote, who has mostly adapted to her unusual life but whose yearning for stability pokes out in small ways. Her narrative voice is rich and memorable, her withering distaste for Wild Watermelon slushes just one of many personality-defining quirks. But if Coyote is a living, breathing protagonist, the secondary cast is less so. That Coyote and her father are white makes Coyote’s enlistment of Lester, an endlessly amiable black man, as a second driver an uncomfortable choice—a literal plot device, in fact. Latinx Salvador is more fully drawn, perhaps because he and Coyote interact as peers, but his mother is not. Like Lester, she and Val (who is white) fade into the background till needed.

A good-hearted road trip stalls on thin secondary characterizations . (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-19670-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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