A timeless and affecting, slightly paranormal exploration of familial attachments.

THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING

Nine-year-old Julian is gifted both emotionally and intellectually, but these assets come at a sometimes-distressing cost.

He, his 14-year-old sister, Pookie, and his two moms, Mom and Joan, all apparently white, have just moved to rural Maine to open a bed and breakfast—and also to get Julian, who has a heart condition, out of a difficult school environment. He’s tormented by anxieties, nightmares, Mom’s severe overprotectiveness (somewhat offset by Joan’s more relaxed parenting style), and especially by their deteriorating relationship with Pookie, who seems always to be angry these days. He manages to cope by immersing himself in his passion, astronomy. After a neighbor threatens to sue the family over an addition to their new house, Julian befriends the elderly, grieving white man, bereft after his wife’s death. In return, “Mr. X” decides to help Julian overcome his paralyzing fear of swimming. Julian gently narrates this immersive tale, Erskine employing Julian's “uni-sensor” abilities (a quasi-magical, extrasensory connection with others) to reveal richly nuanced characters. It’s only near the conclusion that he discloses just how extraordinary his bond with others can be. Julian’s Facts and Random Thoughts (“FARTS,” natch), represented as sidebars in his handwriting, add insight into the boy’s psyche but also provide fascinating tidbits of trivia.

A timeless and affecting, slightly paranormal exploration of familial attachments. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-14851-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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