Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores “all the giant things and all the great things” about...


Foxlee’s (A Most Magical Girl, 2016, etc.) latest is true to its title.

Lenny Spink’s little brother, Davey, isn’t little. At 5 ½, he’s taller than Lenny, a third-grader—and he won’t stop growing. Her intuitive mother, “made almost entirely out of worries and magic” since her father abandoned them, is rapidly unraveling into pure worry. But when their mother wins them a set of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, the siblings build fantastic futures as they learn about farting beetles, golden eagles, and Canada’s Great Bear Lake. From 1974 to 1977, their library grows, and Davey’s rare tumors worsen. Almost universally adored—and unbelievably cheerful through growing pains, excruciating headaches, and blindness—Davey is primarily a plot device, prompting others’ growth and kindness. The growing pains at the book’s heart are Lenny’s. Prickly, perceptive, and sympathetic, she eloquently narrates her conflicted longing for her father and the metamorphoses in her close bond with Davey. Lenny’s anger and “shame of being ashamed” of Davey will resonate with siblings of sick kids, and the rocky but fierce love between Lenny and her mother is heartening. Eclectic secondary characters provide support, including a boy with a birthmark and a stutter; Lenny’s convention-defying best friend; and a doting Hungarian babysitter. Lenny and her family and friends are white; her Ohio neighborhood is somewhat diverse.

Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores “all the giant things and all the great things” about family and growing up—unfortunately, it’s done via the “angelic sick kid” trope. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7012-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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