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BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER

Placing biracial boyhood and the struggles of colorism at its center, the novel challenges readers to pursue their own...

Following on Ghost Boys (2018), Rhodes delivers another middle-grade novel that takes on complex, historical topics while emphasizing young people’s agency and healing.

This outing starts with Donte Ellison wishing for invisibility, as compared to being a hypervisible “nighttime dark” student at upper-crust, overwhelmingly white Middlefield Prep. Maybe if he were invisible, he wouldn’t constantly be in trouble for doing nothing—unlike his older and much-lighter-skinned brother, Trey, who walks the hallways with cool. A tragic, unjust incident occurs early on when the headmaster sends for police officers to handcuff, arrest, and jail Donte after an incidental brush with a teacher. Donte’s mother (she is black and their father white) challenges the school on its racism, yet within the social world of the schoolyard, the injustice is further compounded by bullies’ smirks. Donte responds by devising a plan to make the school see him, in all his dignity, respect, and potential. He leaves the upper-class Boston suburb where he resides and heads to the inner-city Boys and Girl Club, where he finds a former star fencer who now serves his home community. Through this mentorship and other new relationships, Donte discovers more about the gifts of his identity and the pride of cultural heritage. These lessons in self-discovery offer a deeply critical insight for young readers.

Placing biracial boyhood and the struggles of colorism at its center, the novel challenges readers to pursue their own self-definition. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49380-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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