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THE UNBEATABLE LILY HONG

A delightfully adventurous romp with a lovably scrappy protagonist.

A Hui Chinese Muslim tween living in a small town outside Seattle struggles to find balance between family obligations and her passion for film.

If Lily Hong isn’t making films with her best friends from Clarktown Middle School, Kelli and Lauren, or attending Hong Chinese Academy, her family’s business located in the community center, she’s competing with her nemesis, Max Zhang. But Lily’s project for the upcoming Clarktown’s Got Talent video competition is interrupted by the news that the community center is going to be sold to developers—Max’s parents. To help raise the $100,000 needed to save the center, Lily’s mom plans a traditional Chinese dance show featuring performances by the students of Hong Chinese Academy. Torn between creating her film and participating in the dance, Lily attempts to do both, but when she lies in an effort to appease everyone, she ends up alienating her friends. Eventually Lily cracks from the strain and spills everything to Max, who is surprisingly empathetic, though she later questions her trust in him. Ultimately, Lily must find a way to make amends with her friends and figure out what she really wants to do. Ma touches on friendship issues, racism, gentrification, and balancing family expectations with personal goals. There’s a nice balance between the action-packed plot, the serious themes explored, and Lily’s comedic antics. Lauren is cued Black; Kelli presents white.

A delightfully adventurous romp with a lovably scrappy protagonist. (folktale, author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780358617235

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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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...

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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