Light entertainment with some vocabulary enrichment for middle graders of all sorts.

PENNYBAKER SCHOOL IS REVOLTING

When their history teacher disappears, students at the Pennybaker School for the Uniquely Gifted stage their own revolution and solve the mystery.

At this unconventional school, every student has an unusual talent and every class, a slightly off-kilter approach. In Pennybaker School Is Headed for Disaster (2017), new student and aspiring magician Thomas Fallgrout had trouble fitting in. Now his word-loving neighbor and best friend, Chip Mason, is a classmate and seems to be far more successful both academically and socially. Chip gets Thomas into trouble, he’s usurping Thomas’ privileges, and he’s stealing Thomas’ friends. Or, at least, that’s the way Thomas sees it, telling his story in an aggrieved first-person past tense. In school, a costume-loving history teacher has been replaced by a boring substitute who assigns essays. The new gym unit is co-ed dance, and Thomas has a scary partner. At home, his daredevil grandmother has been sneaking out at night through Thomas’ window; he discovers she’s been racing cars. These problems provide the humor, much of it distinctly middle-grade, involving such details as pantyhose and cowpies. But the heart of this account is the strain on the boys’ friendship, often seen in stories about girls but rarely about boys. Kissi’s black-and-white illustrations show Thomas as white and Chip as black.

Light entertainment with some vocabulary enrichment for middle graders of all sorts. (Fiction 8-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-176-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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