An exciting fantasy with familiar elements—magical creatures, high stakes, and courage—rich with Lebanese texture.


A girl struggling with change finds herself swept into a fantasy “world next door” heavily informed by her Lebanese-immigrant grandmother’s stories.

Samara Washington lives in Coconut Shores, Florida, with her mother, Alia; brother, Tony; and maternal grandmother, whom they call Teta. Her American-born father passed away when she was young. Although it’s been about a year since they moved from Ithaca, New York, she has not made “real friend-friends” like the ones she left behind. Worse, Teta’s changed, speaking gibberish to everyone except Sami, when they are alone. Alia is thinking about moving Teta to a nursing home, something Sami energetically opposes. Teta’s told Sami stories about the magic in their family—stories about another world with magical sprites called Ifrit and air and light beings called Flickers. Convinced that Teta is under a spell, Sami finds her grandmother’s charm book and uses it, entering Silverworld, a parallel world that, like Teta, is in terrible danger. Sami must decide whether she will confront the force that threatens Silverworld or go back home. In the tradition of epic fantasy, Sami will be tested and face her greatest fears. In her first novel for children, Abu-Jaber (Life Without a Recipe, 2016, etc.) includes pieces of Beirut that were part of Alia’s and Teta’s lives in Lebanon—meals they prepared together like kibbee, bamia, and tabbouleh; the adthan, or call to prayer—evoking a powerful image of that place while acknowledging Sami’s bicultural American experience.

An exciting fantasy with familiar elements—magical creatures, high stakes, and courage—rich with Lebanese texture. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-553-50967-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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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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There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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