A glowing, heartfelt addition to the middle-grade LGBTQ genre.

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REDWOOD AND PONYTAIL

Two middle school girls grapple with their blossoming feelings for each other in this verse novel.

Tam is a volleyball player sometimes mistaken for a boy. Kate is a popular cheerleader. When they notice each other at seventh grade registration, Tam sees a walking cliché with a perfect ponytail, while Kate sees a girl as “tall as a palm tree.” When they meet face to face, they strike an immediate rapport. Soon the two are having lunch together every day and linking pinkies in the halls. As they grow closer, each finds herself questioning who she thought she was. Tam doesn’t know how she fits into Kate’s seemingly perfect world. Kate, who has spent her life trying to live up to her shallow, perfectionist mother’s expectations, wants to go her own way, a process that includes deciding whether or not to admit her feelings for Tam. Tam and Kate share the first-person narration, which keenly conveys each girl’s joys and inner turmoil. The dual narratives play off of each other, sometimes in a call-and-response manner that clearly communicates the shyness, awkwardness, and confusion of first love. A trio of unseen watchers, identified as Alex, Alyx, and Alexx, collectively represent the observant school-hallway bystanders, providing commentary and speculation in the manner of a Greek chorus. Their verses can be read vertically or horizontally, resulting in multiple meanings. Characters are racially ambiguous.

A glowing, heartfelt addition to the middle-grade LGBTQ genre. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7288-0

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.

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WONDER

After being home-schooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle school life when he looks so different from everyone else?

Auggie has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies he was born with, but he still has a face that has earned him such cruel nicknames as Freak, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out and Lizard face. Though “his features look like they’ve been melted, like the drippings on a candle” and he’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him, he’s an engaging boy who feels pretty ordinary inside. He’s smart, funny, kind and brave, but his father says that having Auggie attend Beecher Prep would be like sending “a lamb to the slaughter.” Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too.

A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86902-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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