Once again, DiCamillo demonstrates the power of simple words in a beautiful and wise tale.

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RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE

Ten-year-old Raymie Clarke of Lister, Florida, has a plan to get her father to come back home.

Raymie feels “alone, lost, cast adrift.” Her father has run off with a dental hygienist. She is determined to learn how to twirl a baton, win the title of Miss Central Florida Tire 1975, and get her photograph in the newspaper. Her father will see it and be so proud that he’ll return home to be with her. Raymie and her quirky new friends, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, have all lost parents and seek ways to move on with their lives and to protect one another along the way. DiCamillo’s third-person narrative is written in simple words, few exceeding three syllables, yet somehow such modest prose carries the weight of deep meditations on life, death, the soul, friendship, and the meaning of life without ever seeming heavy, and there’s even a miracle to boot. Readers will approach the tense and dramatic conclusion and realize how much each word matters. Raymie may not find answers to why the world exists or how the world works, but she can hold onto friends and begin to see more clearly the world as it is. Raymie’s small town is populated by quirky, largely white residents, many of them elderly, all distinct characters in their own rights.

Once again, DiCamillo demonstrates the power of simple words in a beautiful and wise tale. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8117-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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