A lovely mixture of friends and family and more than a touch of magic.

READ REVIEW

THE MAGICAL BOOKSHOP

The charming proprietor of Mrs. Owl’s Bookshop magically supplies customers with just the book they need.

It is Clara’s favorite place. Books seem to be alive and aware, and only Mrs. Owl and Clara can hear Mr. King, a talking mirror, and Gustaf the rhyming cat, whose pronouncements are surprisingly appropriate and helpful. And there’s always chocolate to make things better. When her best friend, Lottie, moves away due to her parents’ divorce, Clara is forlorn. Now she must deal with bullies on her own, and she must adjust to the new boy who becomes her seatmate at school. But worst of all, her new teacher is the woman for whom Lottie’s father left his family. Clara’s family and her friends at the bookstore are loving and supportive, providing encouragement and practical advice. But there is also trouble at the bookstore, where the villain of the piece tries to damage the business with dirty tricks. Via Kemp’s translation from the original German, Clara tells her own story in a conversational, British-inflected tone that will engage readers’ sympathy. The characters, who seem to be white, are wonderfully eccentric. There is plenty of action, angst, and fun as well as imaginative, sometimes hilarious magic. Friendly, informal black-and-white cartoons that enhance the fun are sprinkled throughout. There’s a happy, satisfying, if not perfect ending that will have readers glad for Clara.

A lovely mixture of friends and family and more than a touch of magic. (discussion questions) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78607-866-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Rock the Boat/Oneworld

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-crafted, accessible, and essential.

WE HAD TO BE BRAVE

ESCAPING THE NAZIS ON THE KINDERTRANSPORT

A vital collection of vignettes from the Kindertransport, the World War II rescue effort that brought about 10,000 child refugees from Nazi-controlled countries into Britain.

Years before the Nazis ramped up to genocide, the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich convinced some parents that their children were unsafe. Emigration, however, was quite difficult. Even for those prepared to move somewhere they didn’t speak the language, it was shockingly difficult to get a visa. England and the United States had strict immigration quotas. Nevertheless, refugee advocates and the British Home Office hatched a plan to bring child refugees into Britain and settle them with foster families. (A similar attempt in the U.S. died in Congress.) The voices of myriad Kindertransport survivors are used to tell of this harrowing time, recalling in oral histories and published and unpublished memoirs their prewar lives, the journey, their foster families. Sidebars provide more resources about the people in each section; it’s startlingly powerful to read a survivor’s story and then go to a YouTube video or BBC recording featuring that same survivor, speaking as an adult or recorded as a child more than 80 years ago. Historical context, personal stories, and letters are seamlessly integrated in this history of frightened refugee children in a new land and their brave parents’ making “the heart-wrenching decision” to send their children away with strangers to a foreign country.

Well-crafted, accessible, and essential. (timeline, glossary, resources, index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-25572-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Native readers will see themselves as necessary heroes while readers of all walks will want to be their accomplices.

RACE TO THE SUN

A Diné teen teams up with her younger brother and her best friend to battle monsters threatening their world.

After seventh grader Nizhoni Begay senses a monster lurking in the stands during her basketball game, she tells her younger brother, Mac. When the monster kidnaps her father as part of a multilayered plot to lure her brother—the only one who knows her monster-spotting abilities—into servitude, kill her, and destroy the world, Nizhoni seeks help from her biracial best friend, Davery, whose mother is African American, his father, Diné. Aided by Mr. Yazzie, a stuffed horned-toad toy that can talk, and a cast of characters from Diné culture, the three kids embark on an adventurous trek to free Dad and stop the monsters. But even with powers inherited from monster-slaying ancestors, assistance from Holy People, and weapons fashioned from the Sun, Nizhoni will need to believe in herself while sacrificing what’s most important if she hopes to succeed. Fans of Hugo and Nebula winner Roanhorse (Ohkay Owingeh) will appreciate her fast-paced prose, page-turning chapter endings, and, most of all, strong female protagonist. By reimagining a traditional story in a contemporary context, populating it with faceted Native characters, and centering it on and around the Navajo Nation, Roanhorse shows that Native stories are active and alive.

Native readers will see themselves as necessary heroes while readers of all walks will want to be their accomplices. (glossary of Navajo terms, author’s note) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02466-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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