Ignore the title: this is a good story already.

THIS WOULD MAKE A GOOD STORY SOMEDAY

Rising seventh-grader Sara Johnston-Fisher’s summer journal chronicles a family cross-country trip and her own personal journey from acutely self-conscious preteen to someone “new and improved.”

Sara and her friends have grand plans to reinvent themselves in the summer before middle school, but Sara’s are derailed when her mother Mimi wins a fellowship to take and write about a family train trip. Sara’s mortified by her family—two moms, college-age sister Laurel, who has a tongue stud, Root, Laurel’s laid-back California “partner,” and her all-caps–loud little sister—and she’s horrified by their New Train Friends: diminutive Travis, his writer dad, and his two nonagenarian “aunties.” The author comments on a variety of social issues through Laurel and Root’s social consciousness and warns readers of the lack of privacy on the internet through Travis’ computer savvy. Sara includes her own impressions of scenic and historical highlights of the trip as well as notes, postcards, and excerpts from other’s writings. But this story is never preachy; it ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to incredibly moving, and the voices are true. Fans of Levy’s Fletcher Family novels will be happy to hear more about Frog’s friend Ladybug, Sara’s little sister. Ladybug is Asian-American, and Travis is depicted as black on the cover; Sara and the others appear to be white.

Ignore the title: this is a good story already. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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

HOLES

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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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