An energizing and ultimately uplifting tale of the power to change.

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LOSING IT

Overweight eighth-grader Bennett receives a wake-up call when his obese father collapses with a stroke.

Bennett doesn’t deceive himself about the condition of his body. He knows he can’t manage exercise and is addicted to junk food. But with his father hospitalized and emerging from a coma, he’s taken in by his aunt and uncle. His uncle is a serious runner, and his aunt controls everything she can manage—and one of the things she’s now decided to control is Bennett’s obesity. Bennett, for himself and perhaps to model a healthier lifestyle for his father—though at first reluctantly—begins to cooperate with her overbearing management: initially a short walk, and then, ever so gradually, pushing himself to run. Readers will be rooting for this likable and determined teen as he bravely goes out for the track team, willing to suffer potential humiliation in order to rescue himself and his dad. He isn’t helped in his efforts by his best friend, P.G., who views Bennett’s new efforts as a betrayal of their friendship. Bennett’s gradual weight loss and improving fitness don’t come easily; his hard work is believably portrayed in his engagingly realistic voice. Fry’s purposive debut is reminiscent of Chris Crutcher’s works, but for a younger audience.

An energizing and ultimately uplifting tale of the power to change. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7614-6220-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Short chapters and frequent mild cliffhangers make this suitable for a middle-grade classroom read-aloud; but there’s little...

THE LETTER FOR THE KING

The English translation of a prizewinning 1962 Dutch historical adventure exhibits both old-school charms and flaws.  

On the eve of his knighting, 16-year-old Tiuri abandons his vigil to answer an old man’s desperate plea. When the knight he seeks is murdered, Tiuri is charged with the delivery of a secret message determining the fate of kingdoms, and so begins a quest rich in chivalry, daring, and deadly peril. Brave, honorable, and earnest, Tiuri’s personality is matched by the straightforward prose, which meticulously chronicles every step of his journey in a meandering, episodic narrative. While encountering every make and manner of man (female characters barely exist in this world), Tiuri appears capable of judging the disposition of each at a glance, a feat made less remarkable when nearly everyone goes out of his or her way to be friendly and helpful, and the few villainous exceptions act with either inexplicable generosity or ludicrous incompetence. In stark contrast to current tropes, Tiuri’s mission at the end plays only a minor role in the greater conflict of nations, the outcome of which is never addressed. Tiuri himself returns home to pick up his life precisely where he left off, richer in experience but with his character fundamentally unaltered.

Short chapters and frequent mild cliffhangers make this suitable for a middle-grade classroom read-aloud; but there’s little here to captivate a 21st-century reader. (Historical adventure. 10-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-81978-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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