FINDING PERFECT

While there are several good books about OCD for teen readers, few are available for middle graders, and this is a welcome...

If your parents are separating, your mother leaves home for a job elsewhere, and your best friend is about to move away, how can you gain control of your life?

“Soap. Water. Scrub. Rinse. Good. No. Again.” Twelve-year-old Molly Nathans’ management strategies develop gradually—from aligning items to cleaning and organizing, hand-washing and counting—all intended to bring order to a series of life events that feel chaotic. The white girl’s convinced that she can bring her mother home by winning the school poetry slam and perfecting her routines. Molly’s close friends have their own, much milder fixations and ultimately support her OCD in a humane way. Her caring but preoccupied father eventually responds to her cries for help while identifying the role that genetics play in Molly’s experiences of self-loss and irrational fears. Debut author Swartz folds in helpful resources and delivers plot and characters that are occasionally overearnest and heavy-handed, with some of the predictability of a problem novel. Yet this first-person narrative of an increasingly common behavioral-health issue will undoubtedly be a useful tool for both classroom and group discussion.

While there are several good books about OCD for teen readers, few are available for middle graders, and this is a welcome addition to the fold. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30312-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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

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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