THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER

A look at the past with resonance for the present.

A white van, the Bermuda Triangle, and undercurrents of prejudice: welcome to the ’70s.

It’s 1978, and 11-year-old Danny Wexler is Jewish (implied Ashkenazi) and living in a predominantly Italian American town. His mother, a nurse, and father, a factory worker, are discreet about their faith, but they are still outsiders: witness the consistent lack of promotion for Danny’s father despite his years of experience. Danny and friends Frank and Nicholas obsess over aliens and the Bermuda Triangle, especially after a boy from a nearby town disappears, supposedly snatched by a man in a white van; Danny and his friends even believe Danny’s piano teacher may be an alien and the kidnapper. But when that promotion finally comes through for his father, the town’s antisemitism also comes out into the open; Nicholas is prohibited from playing with Danny, while another boy starts calling him Matzah Boy, and Mr. Wexler arrives home with a black eye. Meanwhile, Danny, whose engaging voice anchors the novel, discovers that Mrs. Albertini, their elderly neighbor, is Jewish, and he begins to learn classic recipes—and understand the gains and losses of assimilation—from her experiences. This quick slice-of-life read with an upbeat, tidy ending examines what it is like to be othered and the anchoring force of friendship.

A look at the past with resonance for the present. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72841-294-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

GHOSTS

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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