After Daniel’s experiences, readers will want to move there too.

THE LOST BOY'S GIFT

The dull and seemingly ordinary neighborhood in which Daniel fetches up with his newly divorced mom turns out to be anything but.

Daniel’s first impressions of While-a-Way Lane aren’t good, as most of the neighbors are away for spring break, and he’s already in a dark, missing-his-dad mood. But then he spots his next-door neighbor, an older lady named Tilda Butter, apparently talking to the air. Had he looked a bit closer, he would have seen her actually in conversation with a small snake named Isadora. Tilda is very good at looking closer, and as her third-person chapters tend to be much longer than Daniel’s, it’s largely through her eyes and memories that readers will see the wonders of While-a-Way Lane, magical and otherwise, unfold. Wondrous things that happen to Daniel include an exciting encounter with squirrels in Tilda’s attic, landing a role as Lost Boy No. 8 in a school production of Peter Pan (his favorite book), and being followed home one evening by a cloud of fireflies. In Tilda’s view, everyone has a “gift” (hers happens to be talking to animals), and though on the surface Daniel remains rather unappealingly sullen and unobservant until near the end, he ultimately rewards her faith in a way that adds further buoyancy to the upbeat finish. Both Bean’s map and his chapter-head vignettes themselves reward closer looks. The cast defaults to white.

After Daniel’s experiences, readers will want to move there too. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62779-326-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS

On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers.

ALWAYS, CLEMENTINE

Letters from a super-intelligent mouse to the beloved chimpanzee she leaves behind when she escapes a research lab.

Poignant, loving, and threaded through with the joy of discovery, the letters that Clementine mentally composes to her gentle simian friend tell a tale that takes suspenseful turns while affirming tolerance and self-expression. Thanks to tweaked DNA, she’s thinking about prime numbers the day she is born, helps other mice navigate mazes, and figures out how to escape her cage at night and sign with the lab’s sad, affectionate chimp, Rosie. When a guilt-ridden research assistant spirits her and another mouse subject out of the lab, leaving them in a nearby mailbox, she begins a series of reports to Rosie about the wonders of the outside world. Eleven-year-old Gus and his grandfather welcome the fugitives rather than turn them in for the large reward offered by the lab when the mousenapping is discovered. They create a storm of public protest against animal experimentation by televising a chess match in which Clementine beats five experienced human players simultaneously. Along with offering an optimistic, aspirational view of human nature as she winds the story to a joyous conclusion, Sorosiak tucks in a subplot around nonverbal Hamlet, the other mouse escapee, who constructs a model of Notre Dame out of wood chips, as food for further thought about different intelligences. The human cast seems to be mostly White.

Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2884-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Superb storytelling.

FRANKIE & BUG

When Bug’s traditional summer routine is shaken up, her entire life changes.

It’s 1987, and 10-year-old Beatrice “Bug” Contreras has a plan: spend her summer months with her brother, Danny, on Venice Beach as she has for the past two years. But when 14-year-old Danny—who has matured into the name Daniel—wants more time to himself, Bug learns she will be instead hanging out with 11-year-old Frankie, the nephew of Phillip, her mother’s best friend and their upstairs neighbor. Frankie, who is visiting from Ohio, is trans at a time before this identity was well understood and has not been treated with kindness or acceptance by his parents. Frankie and Bug become fascinated with trying to solve the case of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been striking in the area. When Phillip is attacked, ending up in the hospital, their investigation swivels, and the titular characters uncover a few untold family tales. Bug and Daniel’s late father was a professor from El Salvador with Indigenous ancestry who spoke Nahuatl as well as Spanish and English. Biracial identity is explored in part through the differences in the siblings’ physical appearances: Their mother is implied to be White, and Daniel—who resembles their father more than Bug does—experiences more overt racism and dives into an exploration of his Salvadoran heritage. Readers interested in complex emotional development and relationships will appreciate each character's subtle nuances.

Superb storytelling. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8253-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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