A heartfelt but amusing story about the many challenges of growing up

SECRETS OUT!

From the Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine series , Vol. 2

Picking up where Friendship Over (2014) ends, this illustrated diary-style slice-of-life novel tells the continuing story of 10-year-old Celie Valentine Altman, centering on the all-important middle school topics of friendship and family.

The theme of secrets—finding them, keeping them, and the subtle ethics of these decisions—is a strong choice for Celie’s character, as she can’t stand not knowing what’s going on. She’s also willing to break moral boundaries to find out, spying and reading private correspondence. However, when her addled grandmother accidentally sets her sweater on fire, it’s Celie who tries to hide this important secret from her parents, as she fears her beloved grandmother will be taken away. On the friendship front, Celie’s longtime friend, Lula, has a new friend, Violet, and Celie doesn’t understand why Lula is sharing secrets with Violet rather than her. And at home, Celie struggles with her older sister, Jo, interfering with her privacy and insisting that Jo not keep her ice cream date secret from their parents. Although the issues Celie faces—loss of her best friend, conflicts with her sister, concerns about her cognitively compromised grandmother—are major, the story is in no way heavy, as Celie’s skewed perspective and the diary’s clever illustrations add humor and keep the tone light.

A heartfelt but amusing story about the many challenges of growing up . (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62091-777-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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