Ignore the lackluster title and cover. This one's a keeper.

THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING

A hardscrabble frontier girl finds happiness in hard work and compromise.

Jane Deming, age 11, has been single-handedly caring for her brother, Jer, since just after his birth two years ago. Papa died in the battle of Vicksburg; destitute, Jane's 22-year-old stepmother has been working 14-hour days in a mill to keep them. Asa Mercer's plan to take 700 single girls and widows from New England to a new town in Washington territory, Seattle, seems like a godsend. Mrs. D. wants to regain her lost girlhood and marry a banker. Jane hopes for school, playtime, and friends. After a four-month voyage, they're astonished to discover that Seattle is a foggy, rough-hewn frontier town—hardly a tropical paradise. With no money and no hope of employment, Jane's stepmother marries a frontiersman, Mr. Wright, who, while far from rich or handsome, does his best to listen to what his new family needs. While the main characters are all white, several characters in Seattle are either full or half Native American, specifically Duwamish, and they are portrayed with honesty and sympathy. Pragmatic, adaptable Jane learns to skin otters, build a canoe, and look for ways in which everyone can get a part of what they want. There's plenty of action, but the strength of the novel comes from its characterization, especially Jane’s, whose point of view becomes more reliable as she matures.

Ignore the lackluster title and cover. This one's a keeper. (Historical fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6496-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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