Fast and victorious.

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KNOCKOUT

A kid who grew up with precarious health hungers to bust out of the protected zone that his mother and brother keep him in.

To 12-year-old Levi, born weighing 2 pounds, “the hole in my neck, / the trach tube I needed to breathe, / the medical equipment in the house, / the almost dying, / the surgeries” are stories—not memories. He plans never to be “blue” (breathless) again. Readers new to Levi’s story will share his casualness; House Arrest (2015) readers, however, will remember Levi’s near deaths vividly through the eyes of his brother, Timothy, now 24 but a child back when Levi’s life lay in his hands. First-person free verse effectively conveys Levi’s impatience as he lunges away from “TIMOTHY’S RULES / FOR EVERYDAY / BLAH-BLAHS” by climbing a tree, lying, pranking (he interrupts school events from inside a stolen chicken-mascot costume), and learning to box. Custodial parent Mom doesn’t know he’s boxing, but tough-guy Dad gives permission, applying machismo pressure. Levi himself uses knockouts as a metaphor for strength and success (and happily claims the title of a “man’s man / ladies’ man”). Boxing channels his energy, acuity, and anger and even holds, “like, / beauty.” Tender moments come when Levi, Timothy, and Mom use a journal to write back and forth. Aside from a remark that Dad is “pasty white” and Levi “not,” race and color go unmentioned.

Fast and victorious. (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6358-1

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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