An original and resonant exploration of interconnectedness and friendship.

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HELLO, UNIVERSE

The lives of several middle school children intersect one summer day, as if by fate.

Kelly’s inventive story centers on gentle and quiet Virgil Salinas, a Filipino-American 11-year-old, and is told from several supremely well-crafted perspectives. Virgil longs to find the courage to talk to Valencia Somerset, who is confident, independent, and deaf. Third-generation Japanese-American Kaori Tanaka, Virgil’s good friend and a budding entrepreneur, offers kids her gift of second sight as a professional psychic. Chet Bullens is the neighborhood bully, and he torments Virgil regularly. Though he is immediately unlikable, Chet’s internal dialogue is nuanced, allowing young readers to understand the forces that shape his worldview and to glimpse the insecurity that underscores his behavior. On his way through the woods to Kaori’s house for a reading, Virgil encounters Chet, whose cruelty endangers Virgil’s beloved guinea pig, Gulliver, and ultimately leaves Virgil stranded and helpless. This ordeal spurs the unexpected collision of all the characters. Virgil, alone except for visits by personifications from the dark folk tales often shared by his Filipina grandmother, contemplates how he will become the hero in his own story should he survive. The short chapters, compelling characters, and age-appropriate suspense will hook young readers immediately. Neither Valencia nor Chet is cued racially.

An original and resonant exploration of interconnectedness and friendship. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241415-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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