A sensitive exploration of the high costs of failing to really connect with those around us.

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Cronin, famous for solving cow communication problems with a typewriter in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (2000) and sequels, offers her debut middle-grade novel illuminating human communication problems.

Nora, 12, blackmails her cousin Riley, 13, into riding with her on the Cyclone, the Coney Island amusement park’s legendary roller coaster—and as soon as Riley steps off, she collapses from a stroke and is hospitalized, partially paralyzed and nearly unable to speak. In the waiting room, Nora meets Jack, a caring young teen, who says his younger brother is in the ICU with leukemia—although, sadly, he’s not telling the full story. Riley’s hospital stay drags on, including ample medical detail, and Nora’s and Riley’s mothers’ other sister arrives, ballooning the already-substantial tension. As Riley begins to talk a bit, most of her words are, astonishingly, in Spanish, dredged up from her middle school language lessons; only her Latina roommate, Sophia, is able to understand her. (Sophia and some hospital staff aside, the characters all appear to be white.) It’s only time, learning to listen, and a bit of emerging maturity that help Nora resolve these many communication problems, discovering poignant, hidden-in-plain-sight truths along the way. Her honest first-person (and thoroughly footnoted) voice believably moves from defensive and guilt-ridden to perceptive and empathetic as her understanding grows.

A sensitive exploration of the high costs of failing to really connect with those around us. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3525-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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