Put this book in your orbit.

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WE DREAM OF SPACE

Three siblings face their middle school problems as they learn about space.

The Thomas siblings—13-year-old Cash and 12-year-old twins Fitch and Bird—all struggle to navigate the doubts of middle school and their dysfunctional family. Cash sees himself as a failure. He isn’t good at anything, and now he’s repeating seventh grade with his two younger siblings. Fitch is good at video games but bad at controlling his temper. Bird likes tinkering with machines but feels invisible. The Thomas household is toxic with their parents’ constant fighting, and Bird feels like she has to keep their family from malfunctioning altogether. It’s January 1986, and their teacher is gearing them up for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. Bird is enthralled with the space mission and decides she’s going to be a shuttle commander one day. But when the Challenger disaster occurs, Bird finds herself in need of the support she’s been giving. Each chapter begins with a date in January 1986, then divides into short vignettes following each sibling on that day. Kelly writes a heartfelt story of family and the bond of siblings. Even though readers are transported to 1986, the characters’ social, emotional, and familial struggles will feel familiar and timely. Characters seem to default to white, with the occasional surname hinting at ethnic difference.

Put this book in your orbit. (historical note, resources) (Historical fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-274730-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

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. 19, 2019

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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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