THE AMBASSADOR OF NOWHERE TEXAS

This sequel to Holt’s National Book Award winner, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (1999), revisits Antler, Texas, 30 years later; this time our guide is Toby’s daughter, Rylee.

Rylee, 12, is a passionate booster of her tiny hometown. Unlike her mercurial best friend, Twig, she’s blessed with a happy family. Rylee’s stunned by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then heartsick over their faltering friendship. Joe, a new classmate from Brooklyn, provides welcome distraction. He ridicules Antler but warms to self-appointed tour guide Rylee, who piques his interest in Zachary Beaver. Learning how the attacks affected Joe’s family makes 9/11 personal to locals. Stalwart Rylee, navigating tween angst, is engaging, but comprehensive updates on characters from the first novel slow the narrative. Little has changed for the White residents. Antler’s success story is Juan Garcia, the impoverished teen from the Mexican side of town, now a world-famous golfer, his childhood home a tourist attraction. Juan’s affluent extended family includes the brilliant Garcia twins, Rylee’s classmates. A new character, Vietnamese immigrant Mr. Pham, cooks for and lives at the bowling alley’s cafe. He suddenly buys the town’s mansion, planning to open an upscale restaurant. White residents’ struggles, missteps, and achievements are affectionately chronicled; the Garcias and Mr. Pham get no humanizing backstories, and they seem to serve to validate Antler’s post-racial bona fides.

Sticks to the shallows. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23410-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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