A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

MILLIONAIRES FOR THE MONTH

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

MY LIFE AS A POTATO

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.

The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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