This tightly written chapter book has just the right amount of pathos for middle-grade readers.

THE MISSING PIECES OF ME

Hurt by her overworked mother’s insistence that she’s a bad girl, 10-year-old Weezie tries her best to prove her wrong.

Fixing meals and babysitting her half siblings isn’t enough to make up for breaking Gramma Emmeline’s teapot. Weezie misses her deceased grandmother’s love and the way she called her by her full name, Grace Louise. Now she constantly gets in trouble and has to spend weekends at home alone in the trailer park while whiny Ruth Ann and Jackson get Momma’s attention. The only bright light in her life is the recognition her teacher gives her for her artistic talent, which goes unnoticed by Momma. Weezie knows who Ruth Ann’s father was, and Jackson’s daddy comes around often, but she doesn’t even know her own father’s name. She starts lying about him at school, making herself even more miserable. In desperation, she sets out on a search of her own, with surprising results. Weezie’s earnest attempts to find her father without her mother’s cooperation and her persistent efforts to be a better person are touchingly revealed through her candid narration. Strong secondary characters round out the portrayal of small-town life in Oklahoma, including Weezie’s investigative partner, her friend Calvin, who is “a little slow in his thinking” but never judges Weezie for what she does.

This tightly written chapter book has just the right amount of pathos for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4729-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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