Sadness and hope combine in this heartfelt British import.

SCARLET IBIS

Twelve-year-old Scarlet Ibis Mackenzie struggles to care for her brother and protect her family.

With a mother who sleeps and smokes her way through most days, Scarlet has shouldered most of the household responsibilities as well as the care of her sensitive younger half brother, Red. Scarlet works hard to keep her family together, but it’s not easy to predict her mother’s bouts of anger and melancholy and support her brother through hair-trigger emotional upheavals, all while trying to ward off social worker Mrs. Gideon. Her worst fears are realized when a fire destroys the family’s apartment, and Scarlet is placed in foster care without Red. With some cursory Americanization to help the book make the leap across the pond as well as a dash of her signature wildlife enthusiasm, Lewis explores an array of complexities, all to do with family and resilience. Scarlet’s separation from Red (explained as necessary due to Red’s autism spectrum disorder) exacerbates what Scarlet sees as existing splinters of difference (Red is white like their withdrawn mother, and mixed-race Scarlet is dark-skinned like her absent father). And Scarlet uses Red’s fascination with feathers and birds—including the baby pigeon that survives the apartment fire—to find not only a way into her brother’s world, but the hope of reuniting them in the new security of a foster home.

Sadness and hope combine in this heartfelt British import. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4941-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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