LIONS & LIARS

When social misfit Frederick Frederickson rises to popularity due to a case of mistaken identity, he struggles to maintain the charade.

Even his friends see him as a loser, a flea among lions, but 10-year-old Frederick Frederickson is sure that he can overcome the pecking order of fifth grade, someday becoming “his true awesome self.” After a game of dodgeball goes wrong, Frederick can only hope that his family’s annual cruise will give him respite from school. But when a Category 5 hurricane cancels his vacation, Frederick is pushed to the limit and accepts a dare that sends him floating down a river without a paddle. Coming ashore at Camp Omigoshee, a disciplinary camp for boys, Frederick is mistaken for a camper whose bad reputation is infinitely cooler than his own. In his effort to keep up the facade, Frederick discovers that the other boys are also not what they seem. Beasley’s sophomore novel (Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, 2016) is chock full of zany, nicknamed characters (Frederick shares a cabin with Nosebleed, Ant Bite, Specs, and the Professor) coming together in a story of friendship among boys. The boys’ races are not specified, though one character has an Indian name, and Santat depicts one as black and another as brown-skinned; Frederick is white. Readers will find it difficult not to compare this book to Louis Sachar’s more complex Holes, though depth is added with Frederick’s recognition of his economic privilege and questioning of the power his fake popularity gives him.

A fun coming-of-age romp. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-30263-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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