This story of a healing relationship between a traumatized girl and a pony needs some mucking out to make it shine.

DIRT

An 11-year-old white girl’s bond with a mischievous Shetland pony helps her heal from the trauma of losing her mother.

When Yonder’s mother was killed in an automobile accident four years earlier, her orchard-worker white father started drinking heavily, and Yonder stopped speaking out loud. Now, Yonder locks her father in his bedroom every evening because she is afraid he, too, will disappear from her life, walking out in a drunken haze. Bullied and unable to speak up for herself, Yonder begins skipping school and makes friends with a pudgy Shetland pony she names Dirt. Horrified when Dirt’s owner offers him for sale for horsemeat, Yonder hides the pony in her house. When a social worker sees the state of Yonder’s home life, Yonder is sent to a foster home—and promptly runs away to find Dirt. While the story’s essence works, the delivery lacks polish. Overexplanation and frequent adverbs may exasperate readers who like to figure things out for themselves. Yonder’s first-person narration occasionally strikes a prim middle-aged note (“Every child should experience it. I highly recommend playing hooky”) that rings false, and the use of speaking-themed names (Mutter Street, Bellow Avenue, Trudy Trumpet, Mrs. Prattle) feels forced.

This story of a healing relationship between a traumatized girl and a pony needs some mucking out to make it shine. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-92585-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

ODDER

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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