An important story about anxiety, change, and courage.

THE THING I'M MOST AFRAID OF

Her father’s new job in Vienna, Austria, forces a 12-year-old American girl out of her comfort zone.

It’s 1993, and Becca lives in northern Virginia, dividing her time between her divorced parents. When she learns her father will be moving to Vienna for work and she will be spending two months with him over summer vacation, Becca, who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, must face her fears. Traveling to Europe is just the beginning, as she is anxious about passing through the metal detector she believes causes cancer and developing blood clots on the long flight. But with a little help—her mom is flying with her, and she has her Doomsday Journal, where she writes down everything that weighs on her mind—she does it. In Austria, Becca meets Sara Tahirović, the 19-year-old Bosnian Muslim au pair from Sarajevo who will be looking after her and Felix, the bookworm son of her father’s new girlfriend. Becca explores Vienna and learns about the ongoing war in the former Yugoslavia and how it has affected Sara and her family back home. Inspired by Sara’s resilience and ambitions, Becca decides to make a list and do all the things she fears most. In this thoughtful novel populated with well-developed characters, Levine slowly and realistically reveals Becca’s growth, including her shifting relationships with her father, Sara, and Felix. Main characters read as White.

An important story about anxiety, change, and courage. (author's note, further reading) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-0-525-51864-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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