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

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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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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