While Holt’s simplistic plot resolves a bit too neatly, this transformative tale offers important lessons for all...

RHYME SCHEMER

A class bully with poetic leanings gets a painful dose of his own medicine.

In this middle-grade novel in verse, Holt explores the cycle of violence and alienation that can result from parental neglect. Twelve-year-old Kevin is the self-professed “[k]ing of the seventh grade,” the youngest of five boys and son to two preoccupied physicians. He starts off the school year by choosing class runt Robin and the mole on his new teacher’s face as the unwitting subjects of his derision—anything to help shore up the self-worth his abusive older brother Petey has made it his mission to erode. With a motto of “So many / weenies. / So little / time,” Kevin sets about publicly humiliating Robin and otherwise becoming a menace to the community. Though a tormentor at school, at home, bullied Kevin laments feeling “lost all the time / A toy in a shoe / A sock in the trash” and takes refuge by composing his thoughts in a notebook of poems. When Robin gets hold of the notebook and exposes Kevin as a poet, the tables turn, and both boys must reckon with the motives behind the pain they’ve inflicted. Holt draws a fairly straight line between cause and effect, weakening the artistry of her tale but making it one that most readers will readily understand.

While Holt’s simplistic plot resolves a bit too neatly, this transformative tale offers important lessons for all persuasions of middle graders, whether bullies or targets, complicit or horrified bystanders. (Verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2700-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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