With pleasant but meandering writing and little urgency, this one’s best for character-oriented readers.

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WHERE THE HEART IS

Her 14th summer teaches Rachel the meaning of the word bittersweet.

All her life she and her parents and her little sister, Ivy, who’s 8, have lived in an old farmhouse they’ve named Bittersweet Farm, for the vines on the property that her mother makes into wreaths. It’s not a working farm, but they have a big garden and an elderly rescue pony. Rachel’s mother has lost her job as a school librarian, so money is tight, but Rachel is chiefly concerned with her relationship with her best friend, Micah, who would love to be her boyfriend if Rachel allowed. Rachel isn’t sure of her sexuality, and she is anxious around schoolmates who are richer and more self-assured. She spends the summer at the nearby beach and caring for the animals on a rich neighbor’s hobby farm. Then their family loses their home to foreclosure. Told in Rachel’s authentically 13-year-old first-person voice, the story suffers from uneven pacing. At first readers are led to think that Rachel’s relationships and sexuality will be the story’s main focus. Whole chapters are spent describing the neighbor’s farm, which turns out to be unimportant to the plot, and the foreclosure, which turns out to be the primary plot point, isn’t mentioned until two-thirds of the way through the book. The economic stressors this default-white family faces are well-presented.

With pleasant but meandering writing and little urgency, this one’s best for character-oriented readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0003-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

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. 19, 2019

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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