A wise if occasionally saccharine look at common childhood drama.

READ REVIEW

BEST FAMILY EVER

From the Baxter Family Children series

When their parents announce that they are moving from their home in Michigan to Indiana, the five Baxter children react to the change in different ways.

Brooke, the oldest, is quietly confident in the decision. Eight-year-old Erin is fearful, but 6-year-old Luke is too young to fully understand. Eleven-year-old Kari is calm and focused, but 10-year-old Ashley feels as though her world is going to pieces. When new friendships cause Ashley to feel left out and an offhand remark makes her feel flighty and immature, she decides to overhaul her life. She gives up art and soccer, vowing to be more studious, like her sisters. But she soon realizes that she is better off just being who God made her to be. With this children’s novel, Kingsbury and co-author Russell go back in time to focus on the childhoods of some of her favorite characters from her popular series for adults. In the Baxter family, trouble is met with grace, kindness, and prayer. The admonition that “your very best friends are the ones around the dinner table each night” is more than wishful thinking here. Jealousy, sadness, and first crushes are all handled with wisdom and God’s word. However, readers with less-than-idyllic lives might not feel they can simply “choose to be happy,” as God advises Ashley. While God is frequently discussed, the emphasis is more on moral character and kindness. The Baxters are white and the time period unclear, although working back from the books for adults, it is probably the 1970s or ’80s.

A wise if occasionally saccharine look at common childhood drama. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1215-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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