A haunting tale that brings the traumatic aftermath of family violence into focus with unsparing clarity.

A GAME OF FOX & SQUIRRELS

A preteen confronts the child abuse that’s shaped her world through a mysterious game, alluring and terrifying, with rules that are all too familiar.

After Sam, 11, panicked and revealed the child abuse that left older sister Caitlin with a broken arm, the girls were sent to live with Aunt Vicky and her wife, Hannah, in rural Oregon. (The girls and their aunt are white; Hannah has a Chinese surname.) While Caitlin, 13, gratefully adapts, Sam wants only to return to their parents. A gift from Vicky, the Game of Fox & Squirrels, could help with that. The squirrels and fox on the cards, she discovers, have real-life counterparts. The flamboyant fox Ashander feeds Sam’s hopes, testing her loyalty; she must earn her right to go home. What begins as a hero’s journey degenerates into cruel demands. His minions, three timid squirrels, urge Sam to placate him, but she realizes she must look elsewhere to find courage to resist. Sam moves between the game world—with its chillingly familiar rules and seductive, but invariably broken, promises—and the real, but unfamiliar, world of peaceable, dependable adults. Reese’s pairing of a realistic depiction of lived trauma with its allegorical-fantasy reflection proves stunningly effective in conveying PTSD. The abuse is portrayed indirectly, through its long-term effect on victims. Fear digs deep grooves in the psyche—Sam and Caitlin are on perpetual alert. Beautifully written, this is no easy read; crucially, an author’s note addresses real-life abuse and directs readers to the book’s website, which offers resources for help.

A haunting tale that brings the traumatic aftermath of family violence into focus with unsparing clarity. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24301-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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