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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Rich, complex, and confidently voiced.

THE LINE TENDER

Lucy finds solace in her late mother’s passion for shark biology during a summer that brings a new grief.

First-person narrator Lucy and neighbor Fred are compiling a field guide to animals they find near their Rockport, Massachusetts, home. Lucy is the artist, Fred the scientist, and their lifelong friendship is only just hinting that it could become something more. Lucy’s mother, who died of a brain aneurysm when Lucy was 7, five years earlier in 1991, was a recognized shark biologist; her father is a police diver. When a great white is snagged by a local fisherman—a family friend—video footage of an interview with Lucy’s mother surfaces on the news, and Lucy longs to know more. But then another loved one dies, drowned in a quarry accident, and it is Lucy’s father who recovers the body—in their small community it seems everyone is grappling with the pain. Lucy’s persistence in learning about the anatomy of sharks in order to draw them is a kind of homage to those she’s lost. Most of the characters are white; a marine scientist woman of color and protégée of Lucy’s mother plays a key role. Allen offers, through Lucy’s voice, a look at the intersection of art, science, friendship, and love in a way that is impressively nuanced and realistic while offering the reassurance of connection.

Rich, complex, and confidently voiced. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3160-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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