Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him.

WHAT ABOUT WILL

What can a good kid do when his big brother starts being a problem?

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds, who is White and Puerto Rican, wants to get noticed for the right reasons: good grades, Little League, pulling weeds for Mr. Cobb next door. Seventeen-year-old Will used to be the best brother, but now he’s so angry. He’s played football since he was a little kid and has been tackled plenty; when he gets horrifically hurt in a JV game, it’s just one too many head injuries. It’s been a year and a half since Will’s traumatic brain injury, and he’s got a hair-trigger temper. He has chronic headaches, depression, and muscle spasms that prevent him from smiling. Trace knows it’s rotten for Will, but still, why did his awesome brother have to give up all his cool friends? Now he argues with their dad, hangs out with losers—and steals Trace’s stuff. At least Trace has a friend in Catalina Sánchez, the new girl on Little League. Her dad’s a retired major leaguer, and she has sibling problems too. Observations from Trace frame Cat as praiseworthy by virtue of her not being like the other girls, a mindset that conveys misogynistic overtones. The fears of stable, straight-arrow athlete Trace are clarified in lovely sparks of concrete poetry among Hopkins’ free verse, as he learns to tell adults when he sees his beloved brother acting dangerously.

Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him. (author's note) (Verse novel. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10864-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers.

ALWAYS, CLEMENTINE

Letters from a super-intelligent mouse to the beloved chimpanzee she leaves behind when she escapes a research lab.

Poignant, loving, and threaded through with the joy of discovery, the letters that Clementine mentally composes to her gentle simian friend tell a tale that takes suspenseful turns while affirming tolerance and self-expression. Thanks to tweaked DNA, she’s thinking about prime numbers the day she is born, helps other mice navigate mazes, and figures out how to escape her cage at night and sign with the lab’s sad, affectionate chimp, Rosie. When a guilt-ridden research assistant spirits her and another mouse subject out of the lab, leaving them in a nearby mailbox, she begins a series of reports to Rosie about the wonders of the outside world. Eleven-year-old Gus and his grandfather welcome the fugitives rather than turn them in for the large reward offered by the lab when the mousenapping is discovered. They create a storm of public protest against animal experimentation by televising a chess match in which Clementine beats five experienced human players simultaneously. Along with offering an optimistic, aspirational view of human nature as she winds the story to a joyous conclusion, Sorosiak tucks in a subplot around nonverbal Hamlet, the other mouse escapee, who constructs a model of Notre Dame out of wood chips, as food for further thought about different intelligences. The human cast seems to be mostly White.

Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2884-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring.

MEASURING UP

An aspiring young chef discovers her innate resourcefulness and the courage of her convictions.

In this contemporary immigrant story, 12-year-old Cici moves from Taiwan to Seattle with her professional parents, who promote a straightforward formula for success: “good grades, good college, good job.” Cici, however, is sad to leave her grandmother and is determined to bring A-má to the United States for her 70th birthday. When a junior cooking contest presents the prospect of funding A-má’s airfare, Cici, an able chef, aims to win and begins making “American” foods. Working with her in-contest partner Miranda, Cici learns to make porcini risotto, not to overcook pasta, and that she is a super taster. This revelation reminds readers of the secret spice mixture that A-má taught Cici when she was little—will it help her win the contest? Similar hints of superhero identity lurk throughout this textured graphic novel filled with heart and humor, centering girls with budding ambitions, subverting tropes, and celebrating everyday heroes—including the librarian who introduces Cici to Julia Child. Word to the wise: Readers should not pick up this book while hungry unless they have treats nearby such as Taiwanese minced pork over rice, or at least a bubble tea to go with that pineapple cake and zucchini chocolate cookie.

Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring. (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297387-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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