Dogs and friends are terrific helpers in a confusing, neurotypical world.

A dog-loving autistic Australian boy is desperate to make a friend before grade seven.

Alex is a “good boy.” He wants to train his cockapoo, Kevin; finish Map Five in OrbsWorld, his favorite video game; draw dogs; avoid school bullies; and do as he’s told. He’s positive that if he doesn’t have a friend, a popular one, before starting secondary school next year, “everyone will be mean.” Brown-skinned Alex, who likes rules and consistent systems, is sure he can make a real friend if he can finish Map Five, run fast enough to get his team to districts, or make sure Kevin wins a trophy at the dog show. His school, his mother, and even his annoying 14-year-old brother are supportive of his needs, and Alex has carefully practiced strategies for being a good boy. But it’s exhausting being an 11-year-old in a world full of loud nonautistic people who have bizarre ideas about what’s rude. Alex can recognize when one of his classmates is uninterested in his OrbsWorld stories, but his autism classes never taught him how to make them be interested—so were they really that helpful? Some classmates are nice and seem to like him, so maybe they’ll help with his friend-making plan. Everything builds up to a well-earned, deeply satisfying conclusion. This charming, empathetic story centers the engaging voice of a boy who has a strong set of strategies for doing his best.

Dogs and friends are terrific helpers in a confusing, neurotypical world. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781536225808

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015



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

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. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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