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SKELETON TREE

The emotional roller coaster of a contemporary white family in crisis, tempered by a touch of magic and a resilient, likable...

When white, zombie-obsessed, 12-year-old Stanly discovers a human skeleton growing up from his backyard—beginning as a single fingertip—he sees opportunity.

Photographing and writing about this, he reasons, may lead to winning the Young Discoverer’s Prize, which will bring Dad back from 1,500 miles away, and then his little sister, Miren, might stop getting sicker. This ambitious debut story of magical thinking keeps a mostly light tone despite the worsening gravity of Miren’s health throughout. It is peppered with whimsical asides and anatomical jokes in addition to homespun tales from Ms. Francine, part-time cook and child care helper from Kyrgyzstan. Stanly tries to keep his (literally) growing secret confined to his OCD–diagnosed best friend, Jaxon (who has a “cloud of black hair” but is otherwise racially unidentified). Miren quickly finds out, but although she can’t keep a secret, overworked, underpaid, and worried Mom is literally unable to see the skeleton, dubbed Princy by Miren. Conversely, the wise, folkloric Ms. Francine reacts, from the first phalangeal breakthrough, “like she was remembering something sad and happy all at once.” The close-third-person narrative doggedly expresses Stanly’s struggles with conflicting thoughts and emotions—but also keeps action rolling. Stanly copes well with problems ranging from the mundane (ineffectual cameras) to the extraordinary (photographing an evasive skeleton) to the heart-wrenching (a gravely ill sister; burdened parents).

The emotional roller coaster of a contemporary white family in crisis, tempered by a touch of magic and a resilient, likable protagonist. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-04270-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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FAKER

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences.

A con man’s son yearns for a different way of life.

Having helped his single dad fleece wealthy marks since kindergarten, Trey is adept at spotting their rich offspring in each new school he attends and cultivating them until the time comes for a quick getaway. Now that he’s 12, though, the urge to make real friends and put down some roots has become insistent—particularly since he’s drawn to Kaylee, a new classmate in his latest middle school. How can he convince his dad, who’s in the midst of luring local investors into a fantastically lucrative scheme involving a fictive electric car, that it’s time to bag the family profession and settle down? Korman goes more for ironic humor than the physical or stand-up sort in this book, as shown by Trey’s enrollment in an ethics class that forces him into some decidedly hypocritical stances. Much like Trey himself, instant new bestie Logan and his parents turn out to be not at all who they seem. And though there are no bullies or real baddies in the cast on the way to the story’s rosy but implausible resolution, Trey’s malign, high-strung, and wildly reckless huckster of a little sister from hell definitely adds both conflict and suspense to this provocative outing. Main characters read white.

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338826753

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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