An intergenerational tale that highlights a girl’s growing confidence and awareness.

FINDING JUNIE KIM

Her grandfather’s story about growing up during the Korean War mobilizes a girl against racism in her own town.

When someone defaces the gym of her suburban Maryland middle school with racist graffiti, Korean American Junie Kim at first doesn’t want to join her outraged friends in protesting. Instead, Junie, who has been facing the racist taunts of a school bus bully every morning, becomes cynical, negative, and depressed. Her resistance alienates her friends, and she endures a brief bout of suicidal ideation; fortunately, her family finds her a therapist she trusts. A school assignment to interview an elder gives Junie a chance to hear about her beloved grandfather’s boyhood during the Korean War. His harrowing tale and her grandmother’s similarly traumatic story offer valuable perspective, and she is inspired to take action by working with her friends to create a video about diversity for an upcoming assembly. Extraneous details sometimes slow the story, the dialogue can feel unrealistically expository, and the alternating narration and time jumps are at times disorienting, but the brutal depictions of life during the Korean War, including the desperate hunt for food and the chaos of evacuation, ring true. Junie’s love for her grandparents—and theirs for her—is movingly portrayed. Their conversations and Junie’s relationships with her diverse friend group sensitively unpack a range of subjects relating to identity and prejudice.

An intergenerational tale that highlights a girl’s growing confidence and awareness. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298798-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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