A moving tale of ordinary soldiers in a great conflict who find solace in music.

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SOLDIER SONG

A TRUE STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR

One song was embraced by both sides of the very bloody conflict: “Home Sweet Home.”

In December 1862, Union troops fought Confederate troops along the Rappahannock River in Virginia at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Levy’s narrative of the fighting is brief but detailed; she focuses her attention on the young combatants who faced harsh winter conditions in camp and who wrote letters home and sang spirited war songs to cheer their efforts. On both sides, their days were filled with music: music for waking up, music for eating, and music for cleaning up. “Dixie,” sung by the South, was answered by “Yankee Doodle,” sung by the North. But Christmas was coming, and one song, which originated in an opera, was soon voiced by both sides: “Home Sweet Home.” The message of the song—longing for home and family—was poignant; still, the fighting soon resumed. Excerpts from letters as well as verses and musical notations from the songs intersperse the pages and reinforce the humanity that could be present on the battlefield. The softly textured illustrations in blue and orange provide views of the fighting, the soldiers, and the encampments, Ford’s lines giving everything a homespun feel.

A moving tale of ordinary soldiers in a great conflict who find solace in music. (notes on the war, the battle, the song, Civil War timeline, bibliography, quotation sources) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2598-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A satisfying, winning read.

Our Verdict

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

BOOKED

Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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