An honest, emotionally rich take on disability, family, and growing up.

ROLL WITH IT

A middle schooler with cerebral palsy faces a new school and family upheaval in Sumner’s debut.

Twelve-year-old Ellie Cowan dreams of becoming a great baker; when she’s not penning letters to celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes. But sometimes—especially when her single mom’s protectiveness goes overboard—her CP feels like “the Go to Jail card in Monopoly: No matter where you are, it always shoots you back to zero.” When Ellie and her mom temporarily move from Nashville, Tennessee, to Eufaula, Oklahoma, to help care for Grandpa, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, Ellie struggles with being not only “the new kid in the wheelchair” at school, but one of the ostracized “trailer park kids.” But after Ellie befriends outspoken aspiring singer Coralee and fact-reciting “mega geek” Bert (who is, Ellie observes, “probably on the spectrum” but undiagnosed in this small town with little support), the quirky trio find themselves cooking up ways for Ellie to stay—“maybe forever.” Her voice equal parts vulnerable, reflective, and deliciously wry, Ellie is refreshingly complex. Kids navigating disabilities may find her frank frustration with inaccessibility, illness, and patronization particularly cathartic, but readers with and without disabilities will recognize her desire to belong. The mother of a son with CP, the author portrays Ellie and her mom’s loving but fraught relationship with achingly vivid accuracy, bringing the tension between Ellie’s craving for independence and her mother’s fears to a satisfying resolution. Characters, including Ellie, appear white.

An honest, emotionally rich take on disability, family, and growing up. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4255-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER

A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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An extraordinary and timely piece of writing.

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HARBOR ME

Just before she begins seventh grade, Haley tells the story of the previous school year, when she and five other students from an experimental classroom were brought together.

Each has been bullied or teased about their difficulties in school, and several face real challenges at home. Haley is biracial and cared for by her white uncle due to the death of her African-American mother and her white father’s incarceration. Esteban, of Dominican heritage, is coping with his father’s detention by ICE and the possible fracturing of his family. It is also a time when Amari learns from his dad that he can no longer play with toy guns because he is a boy of color. This reveals the divide between them and their white classmate, Ashton. “It’s not fair that you’re a boy and Ashton’s a boy and he can do something you can’t do anymore. That’s not freedom,” Haley says. They support one another, something Haley needs as she prepares for her father’s return from prison and her uncle’s decision to move away. Woodson delivers a powerful tale of community and mutual growth. The bond they develop is palpable. Haley’s recorder is both an important plot element and a metaphor for the power of voice and story. The characters ring true as they discuss issues both personal and global. This story, told with exquisite language and clarity of narrative, is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

An extraordinary and timely piece of writing. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25252-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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