Readers will root for and relate to Hester.

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, DISASTER

A middle schooler struggles with executive function disorder in this thoughtful middle-grade novel.

Hester loves filmmaking more than anything else. Not only is it her passion—she carries her video camera everywhere—but it also makes the most sense to her. Her executive function disorder makes traditional schoolwork difficult despite dedicated strategies at school and home. Luckily, her best friends, white Max and Indian-American Nev, have always been supportive and understanding. Hess loves collaborating with them on filmmaking projects, and she can’t wait to show their spy film at the middle school talent show. However, she struggles to balance all of her commitments—in addition to difficult schoolwork and the trio’s movie, she’s working on an extra-credit film project. In serious danger of failing eighth grade and thus unable to participate in the talent show, Hess feels her world spinning further out of control. Ashamed and devastated, she finds solace and support in the kindness of a few teachers, her supportive parents, and a graphic novel–loving ELL student who wears a hijab and has emigrated from the Middle East. The book’s hopeful finale is tidy and clichéd but undeniably satisfying. Through Hester’s thoughtful first-person narration, structured with “fast forward,” “pause,” and “resume play” asides, Dionne creates a flawed, lovable, sympathetic character who, thanks to her support network, is ultimately able to become “the director of [her] own story.”

Readers will root for and relate to Hester. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-13408-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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