A coming-of-age story as tender and sweet as a summer evening breeze

ALL SUMMER LONG

From the Eagle Rock series , Vol. 1

Summer adventures begin when Bina accidentally locks herself out of her house in Larson’s newest middle-grade graphic novel.

The summer before eighth grade is a season of self-discovery for many 13-year-olds, including Bina, when her best friend heads off to soccer camp and leaves her alone to navigate a SoCal summer. Without athletic Austin around to steer the ship, Bina must pursue her own passions, such as discovering new bands and rocking out on her electric guitar. Unexpected friendships bloom, and new members are welcomed into her family. Though her sphere grows over the summer, friendship with Austin is strained when he returns, and Bina must learn to embrace the proverb to make new friends but keep the old. As her mother wisely observes, “you’re more you every day,” and by the end of summer Bina is more comfortable in her own skin and ready to rock eighth grade. Larson’s panels are superb at revealing emotional conflict, subtext, and humor within the deceptively simple third-person limited plot, allowing characters to grow and develop emotionally over only a few spreads. She also does a laudable job of depicting a diverse community for Bina to call home. Though Bina’s ethnicity is never overtly identified, her racial ambiguity lends greater universality to her story. (In the two-toned apricot, black, and white panels, Bina and her mother have the same black hair and gold skin, while her dad is white, as is Austin.)

A coming-of-age story as tender and sweet as a summer evening breeze . (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-30485-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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An impressive sequel.

PAX, JOURNEY HOME

Boy and fox follow separate paths in postwar rebuilding.

A year after Peter finds refuge with former soldier Vola, he prepares to leave to return to his childhood home. He plans to join the Junior Water Warriors, young people repurposing the machines and structures of war to reclaim reservoirs and rivers poisoned in the conflict, and then to set out on his own to live apart from others. At 13, Peter is competent and self-contained. Vola marvels at the construction of the floor of the cabin he’s built on her land, but the losses he’s sustained have left a mark. He imposes a penance on himself, reimagining the story of rescuing the orphaned kit Pax as one in which he follows his father’s counsel to kill the animal before he could form a connection. He thinks of his heart as having a stone inside it. Pax, meanwhile, has fathered three kits who claim his attention and devotion. Alternating chapters from the fox’s point of view demonstrate Pax’s care for his family—his mate, Bristle; her brother; and the three kits. Pax becomes especially attached to his daughter, who accompanies him on a journey that intersects with Peter’s and allows Peter to not only redeem his past, but imagine a future. This is a deftly nuanced look at the fragility and strength of the human heart. All the human characters read as White. Illustrations not seen.

An impressive sequel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293034-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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