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IT WASN'T ME

A timely, introspective whodunit with a lot of heart.

Six seventh-graders in small-town Massachusetts reluctantly spend school vacation week participating in a restorative-practice justice circle in hopes of identifying a vandal.

Amateur photographer Theo is the victim of a hate crime—his self-portraits in the student gallery defaced with “scribbled threats [and] gay slurs” and followed by a seemingly related incident in the darkroom—yet none of the five students who were in the gallery at the time admit culpability. A “non-horrible” teacher brings Theo and the five suspects together in a radical approach to conflict resolution, reminding them that “all of us are fighting unseen battles.” Told primarily through Theo’s first-person present-tense perspective, punctuated by daily assessments completed by his classmates, the book resists casting any one character as the obvious perpetrator. In true Breakfast Club fashion, the time spent together is sometimes hilarious and sometimes tragic, and it leaves secrets revealed—one student recently lost a sibling, several are navigating cultural expectations and stereotypes, Theo’s dad split last year—and intimate connections forged. Fans of Levy’s Fletcher Family series about two white dads and their adopted sons will recognize Jax Fletcher. Of the five suspects, Jax and Andre are African-American, while Alice Shu appears Asian, and Molly and Erik are identified as white along with Theo. Both refreshingly and frustratingly, Theo’s sexual orientation is never made explicit; the text emphasizes the impact of the harassment rather than the relevance of its content.

A timely, introspective whodunit with a lot of heart. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6643-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

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A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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HOLES

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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