A fast-paced story that, despite its life lesson, never feels preachy.

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NINA SONI, SISTER FIXER

From the Nina Soni series , Vol. 2

When 9-year-old Nina Soni tries to fix her little sister’s quirkiness, she learns an important lesson about being yourself.

Kavita is weird. She makes up nonsensical songs, spontaneously dances in public, and innocently tells family secrets—like how Nina once turned her stomach yellow by putting turmeric on it as a tummy-ache cure. When Nina’s best friend, Jay (who is biracial, with a white dad and Indian mom), invites Nina’s family to stay at his family’s cabin for spring break, Nina is worried that Kavita’s weirdness will spoil the whole trip. She decides to correct her sister’s weirdest quality—her tendency to break into song—in the three days leading up to vacation. But to effect her plan, Nina starts doing some pretty weird things herself, like making a beaver dam over her neighbor’s storm drain. It makes Nina realize that Kavita isn’t the only weird one—and that maybe, weirdness is something to celebrate. As in series opener Nina Soni, Former Best Friend (2019), Sheth’s clear and distinctive narratorial voice effortlessly leads readers through the intricacies of Nina’s quirky, innocent world. At times, the plot seems to wander, but the various threads tie together beautifully at the end, creating a satisfying and believable character arc. The children’s Indian heritage is cleverly woven into the storyline, infusing their lives without eclipsing their American identities.

A fast-paced story that, despite its life lesson, never feels preachy. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-054-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday).

THE BEST OF IGGY

The portrait of a boy as a young rascal: Iggy doesn’t really mean to be “bad,” does he?

A narrator in an amusing direct address and somewhat adult voice serves as both apologist and somewhat bemused observer of three incidents recounted in 20 very short chapters. Iggy Frangi is 9 and in fourth grade. He likes his teacher and tolerates his family—mother, father, sisters Maribel (older) and Molly (younger). Like many people his age, Iggy doesn’t realize that something is wrong with what he is doing until either he is in the middle of doing it (and is reprimanded) or until it’s too late. Ricks’ cartoon illustrations portray Iggy and his family as white-presenting and his lively friends as slim boys with dark skin of various shades. In the first story Iggy defends his own honor and dignity with a strategy involving a skateboard, ladder, and trampoline in a way that only just avoids complete disaster. In the second, Iggy’s flair for going big gets slightly out of hand when he “los[es] his mind” in an incident involving shaving cream and lipstick. The third story involves his teacher and a minor injury and is an incident Iggy regrets “even years later.” Authorial asides combine with amusing cartoons (the universal strikethrough symbol is enlivened by repetitions of “nope” forming the outer circle) to enlist readers as co-conspirators.

Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1330-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-crafted, accessible, and essential.

WE HAD TO BE BRAVE

ESCAPING THE NAZIS ON THE KINDERTRANSPORT

A vital collection of vignettes from the Kindertransport, the World War II rescue effort that brought about 10,000 child refugees from Nazi-controlled countries into Britain.

Years before the Nazis ramped up to genocide, the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich convinced some parents that their children were unsafe. Emigration, however, was quite difficult. Even for those prepared to move somewhere they didn’t speak the language, it was shockingly difficult to get a visa. England and the United States had strict immigration quotas. Nevertheless, refugee advocates and the British Home Office hatched a plan to bring child refugees into Britain and settle them with foster families. (A similar attempt in the U.S. died in Congress.) The voices of myriad Kindertransport survivors are used to tell of this harrowing time, recalling in oral histories and published and unpublished memoirs their prewar lives, the journey, their foster families. Sidebars provide more resources about the people in each section; it’s startlingly powerful to read a survivor’s story and then go to a YouTube video or BBC recording featuring that same survivor, speaking as an adult or recorded as a child more than 80 years ago. Historical context, personal stories, and letters are seamlessly integrated in this history of frightened refugee children in a new land and their brave parents’ making “the heart-wrenching decision” to send their children away with strangers to a foreign country.

Well-crafted, accessible, and essential. (timeline, glossary, resources, index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-25572-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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