Easily meets the series’ high standards.

FIRST PRIZE FOR THE WORST WITCH

From the Worst Witch series , Vol. 8

At the end of Year Four at Miss Cackle’s Academy, prizes are awarded—will Mildred and her friends win anything?

Heading into Summer Term, Mildred has high hopes: She secretly hopes to be chosen as next year’s head girl. But it’s unlikely because, as pal Maud points out, “if there’s a Hallow in the school, it always goes to them, and we’ve got Ethel Hallow.” Meanwhile, villainous Ethel wants to make sure she also claims the best-flying prize and finds a way to attack the key ingredient to Mildred’s flying success: Mildred’s dog, Star, who became Mildred’s broom companion in The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star (2013). Learning that Star is a missing circus dog, Ethel brings this to the authorities’ attention, and Mildred tearfully surrenders Star. When Mildred and friends visit the circus to make sure Star’s happy, they learn that, though none of the circus animals are mistreated, they are not happy, either. The girls engineer a swap of magical tools for the animals. The nostalgia-inducing art and classic British children’s story feel mesh exceptionally well with the circus storyline’s subtle messaging about alternatives to animals in circuses—and it’s done so without casting the circus owners as villains and without judging circus fans. Even bully Ethel and her henchgirl, Drusilla, receive occasional flashes of sympathy—but not so much as to take away from Mildred’s triumph over them! In illustrations, the characters are depicted as white.

Easily meets the series’ high standards. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1101-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A stellar collaboration that introduces an important and intriguing individual to today’s readers.

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BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI

From the Becoming Ali series , Vol. 1

Two bestselling authors imagine the boyhood of the man who became the legendary boxing icon Muhammad Ali.

Cassius was a spirited child growing up in segregated Louisville, Kentucky. He had a loving home with his parents and younger brother, Rudy. Granddaddy Herman also was an important figure, imparting life lessons. His parents wanted him to succeed in school, but Cassius had difficulty reading and found more pleasure in playing and exploring outdoors. Early on, he and Rudy knew the restrictions of being African American, for example, encountering “Whites Only” signs at parks, but the brothers dreamed of fame like that enjoyed by Black boxer Joe Louis. Popular Cassius was especially close to Lucius “Lucky” Wakely; despite their academic differences, their deep connection remained after Lucky received a scholarship to a Catholic school. When Cassius wandered into the Columbia Boxing Gym, it seemed to be destiny, and he developed into a successful youth boxer. Told in two voices, with prose for the voice of Lucky and free verse for Cassius, the narrative provides readers with a multidimensional view of the early life of and influences on an important figure in sports and social change. Lucky’s observations give context while Cassius’ poetry encapsulates his drive, energy, and gift with words. Combined with dynamic illustrations by Anyabwile, the book captures the historical and social environment that produced Muhammad Ali.

A stellar collaboration that introduces an important and intriguing individual to today’s readers. (bibliography) (Biographical novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49816-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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