This light fantasy eases the tension of a tough topic.

HELLO, FUTURE ME

Magic helps a 12-year-old girl cope with her parents’ impending divorce.

June has always been a problem-solver and is quick to tell readers so directly in her lively, conversational narration. She questions her skills, however, when her mother returns from a five-week art retreat with a new guy and her parents decide to divorce. The author tempers June’s natural shock, anger, and desire to keep her parents together with her setting, a whimsical locale that celebrates Bigfoot sightings and magic from the newly opened Shop of Last Resort. As June schemes to make her parents love each other again, she also receives a refurbished laptop from this oddities emporium, which connects her via social media to child and young adult versions of herself. While child June shows her burgeoning strains in her parents’ relationship, her “Future Me” warns her about intervening. Against her own advice, so to speak, a desperate June tries out some of the shop’s unusual spells. The ensuing mishaps not only create intrigue, but allow June to realize and accept that she can’t control everything in her life. Particularly lovable throughout these mysterious events are June’s dad, a burly, tattooed handyman who’s also not afraid to cry, and best friend, Calvin, another supportive male and possible first love interest. Characters default to white in this quirky town located near Oklahoma and Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains.

This light fantasy eases the tension of a tough topic. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57617-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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