A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends.

CLASS ACT

Jordan Banks has returned to the elite Riverdale Academy Day School for eighth grade, and although he still doesn’t smell like an eighth grade boy—much to his dismay—his growth spurt comes in other forms.

Unlike New Kid (2019), this sequel offers the perspectives of not just Jordan, but also his best friend, Drew, and his wealthy White friend, Liam. As Jordan navigates what may be his last year at RAD before transferring to art school, he frequently compares his experiences with Drew’s: Both boys are Black, but Drew is taller, more athletic, and has darker skin. Drew also has a new flattop that attracts unwanted touching from non-Black kids. This story focuses on how differently RAD students and teachers treat light-skinned Jordan and dark-skinned Drew and also how middle-class Jordan, working-class Drew, and rich Liam negotiate a friendship of mutual respect and care. RAD administrators and teachers have also realized that they need to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but their leadership choice for this initiative results in more microaggressions for the students of color. Jordan’s cartoon “intermissions,” black-and-white pencil sketches, capture his imaginative wit while conveying perceptive observations about race and class that ring true. Each chapter’s title page textually and illustratively echoes popular graphic works for young readers such as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288551-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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