A GOOD HORSE

This sequel to The Georges and the Jewels (2009) is Smiley at her finest—detailed, nuanced, absorbing. Abby Lovitt's eighth-grade year starts out feeling less tumultuous than the year before: Her school life is more settled, her parents more at peace and Ornery George, a horse she struggled with, has been sold. Though she continues to ride several horses a day, two in particular fill her heart: Black George, who will jump anything, and Jack, her beautiful orphan foal. Suddenly it seems she will lose them both. Black George is so talented he's sure to attract an offer Abby's Daddy won't refuse, and, though her father bought Jack's dam in good faith, she may have been stolen, which means Jack may have to be returned. Abby, though, is learning to separate the gold from the dross, to see her family, friends, the rich people on the horse-show circuit and especially her horses with unflinching, compassionate truth. Black George and Jack are good horses, in every sense of the word; Abby will be good, too. Rich, real and utterly engrossing. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-86229-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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This tale of a diverse friendship tackles hard topics.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE

An after-school South Asian cooking class sparks an unlikely friendship.

Pakistani American sixth grader Sara is sick of cooking. It’s bad enough that the demands of her mother’s catering business fill Sara’s free time. But when her mother starts teaching a South Asian cuisine class at Poplar Springs Middle School, the school Sara transfers to from her beloved Islamic school, Iqra Academy, she’s forced not only to watch her mother cook, but also to watch her new, xenophobic classmates balk at Sara’s favorite spices. Elizabeth, on the other hand, loves cooking—perhaps because her English-immigrant mother, who suffers from depression, and her American-born father, who is always traveling, never seem to find the time to make proper meals. When Elizabeth is paired with Sara, the two of them form a friendship—until Elizabeth’s best friend’s racism threatens to separate them just when they need each other most. Writing in alternating voices, the authors elegantly interweave issues of racism, financial insecurity, and mental illness into a familiar middle school narrative of identity formation. Sara’s character is particularly well drawn: Her affectionate family, her insistence on Elizabeth’s responsibility to stand up to her white, racist friends, and her love of her culture and religion are refreshingly authentic. Elizabeth’s mostly secular Jewish family life will also ring familiar to many readers. At times, however, the narration verges on preachy, and the dialogue feels more mature than the average sixth grade banter.

This tale of a diverse friendship tackles hard topics. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-11668-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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