A stirring Southern middle-grade book that burns brighter than fireworks on the Fourth.

JUST SOUTH OF HOME

Twelve-year-old aspiring astrobiologist Sarah Greene digs into a dark history to help heal her family, both those present and from the past.

Sarah’s thieving cousin, 11-year-old Janie, a “citified” Chicago native, stays with her family in their small, country town of Warrenville, Georgia, for the summer and continuously uses her “five-finger discount” whenever she wants. When Janie disturbs the town’s haints, restless spirits with unresolved business on this spiritual plane, by taking a necklace from the haunted ruins of a black church burned down by the Klan, Sarah must lead her cousin, little brother, Ellis, and their friend Jasper into the woods during the dangerous Witching Hour in order to communicate with and save the souls trapped there. Strong’s prose pours from her pen like iced sweet tea on an August afternoon—it’s refreshing, steeped in tradition, and mixed with love. Many characters are familiar Southern staples in black communities. Devoted deaconess Mrs. Greene, the children’s paternal grandmother, whom they always address formally, with her loose, wavy hair and light skin, leans deep into colorism; her nemesis, Mrs. Whitney, the town conjuring woman, is dark-skinned and always adorned in all white, and she memorializes the victims of lynchings in their county. No punches are pulled when these personalities collide in this sometimes-spooky ode to how an unacknowledged past can come back to haunt us.

A stirring Southern middle-grade book that burns brighter than fireworks on the Fourth. (Supernatural adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1938-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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