Clichés and superficiality aside, a fun read for anyone who might wish they could be someone else for a little while.

BETTER YOU THAN ME

The familiar body-swap scenario gets a further magic twist in this comedic middle school fantasy.

Skylar Welshman is an outsider—the new kid in her seventh-grade class. When she tries out for the school play, a mortifying onstage incident earns her the nickname Belchman. If only Skylar could have her idol’s perfect life. Ruby Rivera is the star of the Disney-esque genie comedy series Ruby in the Lamp. Although Ruby has everything superstardom brings, however, she wants to trade in her designer wardrobe and millions of social media followers for textbooks and sleepovers. A fantastic turn of events leads to accidental body-switching courtesy of a real magic lamp. Initially, each girl thinks she’s hit the jackpot. Skylar can have the life of a beloved star, and Ruby gets to be a regular kid. But then reality creeps in. Skylar has to get used to public scrutiny of her every move, and Ruby must navigate the pitfalls of middle school. Is the grass really greener on the other side? While the premise isn’t exactly earthshakingly original, it’s still an appealing one, though Brody misses an opportunity by not interrogating the girls’ experiences as members of different races: Ruby is a brown-skinned, bicultural Latina (Mexican and Salvadoran), and Skylar is white. The narrative’s on the long side for a middle-grade novel, but each girl narrates in alternating chapters, maintaining a brisk pace.

Clichés and superficiality aside, a fun read for anyone who might wish they could be someone else for a little while. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6971-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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