A fascinating, page-turning tale.

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THE GIRL AND THE GHOST

After the death of the village witch, her pelesit, a cricketlike trickster ghost-familiar, must seek a new master who shares the witch’s bloodline.

Suraya, a lonely, impoverished child who is shunned by the local children and held at an emotional distance by her mother, embraces her pelesit inheritance, lovingly naming him Pink. Pink serves as Suraya’s friend and protector, but his retribution against those he believes have slighted Suraya is impulsive and malicious. Disturbed, Suraya extracts a promise from Pink not to hurt others, ever, unless she is in absolute danger. Pink soon breaks his promise when Suraya is bullied by other girls, but when she finally makes her first human friend, Jing Wei, Pink’s protectiveness takes a dangerously jealous turn. As Suraya struggles with the decision to cut Pink loose, darker forces remind them that Pink is not the only malevolent being around. The author’s middle-grade debut immerses readers in Malaysian culture and food as well as weaving in both Islamic elements and pre-Islamic views of ghosts and death. Though aspects of the novel embrace the disturbing and grotesque (which will delight many readers), its conclusion is grippingly heart-wrenching and speaks to deeper themes of family, trauma, and friendship. Suraya and her family are Malay Muslims while Jing Wei is Chinese Malaysian.

A fascinating, page-turning tale. (Supernatural adventure. 9-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294095-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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