A touching story about finding inner strength during a challenging time.

ABBY, TRIED AND TRUE

A quiet, poetry-writing, nature-loving tween learns to cope with changes and challenges during a difficult year.

Twelve-year-old Abby Braverman does not feel brave. Her best friend, Cat, is moving away to Israel, and her older brother, Paul, is diagnosed with testicular cancer. Abby and Paul have their two moms, Mom Rachel and Mama Dee, for support, and Abby has her turtle, Fudge, to talk to, but with Cat gone, she doesn’t have anyone else to turn to. She suffers from social anxiety at school and finds it difficult to make new friends; however, when a cute boy moves into Cat’s old house next door, Abby finds herself making tentative steps toward a new friendship with him. The whole family pulls together to support Paul through surgery and chemotherapy, which is hard on all of them. With each new challenge Abby surmounts, she learns that being anxious and sensitive doesn’t mean that she can’t also be other things: a supportive sister, a good friend, and a brave person too. This quiet, steady story especially shines when destigmatizing Abby’s social anxiety and Paul’s particular form of cancer. The Bravermans are Jewish, and, as the school year goes on, they observe holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and Passover. This representation of a close-knit modern Jewish family is authentic and warm.

A touching story about finding inner strength during a challenging time. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4089-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Despite playing into some stereotypes, this will hit a sweet spot for tweens.

GIRL STUFF.

Friendship is tested when three girls start middle school and are together at the same school for the first time.

Fonda, Drew, and Ruthie have been neighbors and best friends since they were little. Fonda, excited to be attending school without being overshadowed by an older sister, can’t wait to have a group she can depend on in the face of an intimidating popular girl clique. Drew, who was at a private school, is looking forward to not having to wear a uniform and to going to the same school as Will, a cute boy she met over the summer. Ruthie, who is coming from an alternative school with a long list of rules, has high expectations for public school. However, Fonda’s plans are immediately disrupted when Ruthie is put in the tiny gifted and talented program, whose students are kept separate from everyone else. The writing is funny and will land well with a tween audience, as will the theme of shifting friendship. Fonda is forced to confront her controlling and manipulative ways as she tries to make her friends conform to her plan for popularity. Her behavior feeds into girl-drama clichés, but the portrayal of the other girls, who face the repercussions of succumbing to peer pressure and sacrificing what they truly want, is more well rounded. All main characters are cued as White.

Despite playing into some stereotypes, this will hit a sweet spot for tweens. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984814-98-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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