A sweet middle-grade novel about the power of art.

DRAWING WITH WHITMAN

From the Sourland Mountain Series series , Vol. 1

A 13-year-old girl discovers a new passion after a terrible car accident in the first book in the Sourland Mountain series for preteens.

Catalynd “Cat” Hamilton is facing big changes. Her beloved older brother, Buddy, is heading off to college in Florida, far from their home on Sourland Mountain near Princeton, New Jersey, and in order to pay for his education, her parents have rented the barn that was her go-to spot for play and thinking. One day in late summer, an errand run is complicated by a thunderstorm, and the car containing Cat and her mother hits a tree. Now wheelchair-bound for several weeks, Cat finds her life altered as her mother morphs from sunny and productive to barely being able to get out of bed. Curiosity and a school project lead Cat to a friendship with her family’s tenant, Benton Whitman. An artist named for Thomas Hart Benton, Cat’s new pal and mentor helps her with a project on Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World, which depicts a young woman who “had lost almost all of her ability to walk.” As Cat adjusts to using a wheelchair and to missing her brother, she discovers a new love for drawing and painting and a way to channel this passion into her everyday life. Meanwhile, Cat learns to connect with the people around her, particularly her mother, who is feeling her own effects from the fateful car crash. McGlothlin, the author of Andy’s Snowball Story (2010), has degrees in art history and English, and her knowledge of both storytelling and painting is on full display. Though Cat tends to come off as younger than 13 (and her age is not revealed until Page 42), her emotions and challenges feel authentic to the book’s target middle-grade audience. Cat’s mentor Benton radiates kindness, and her mother’s touching battle with depression rings true. In the backmatter, the author lists several resources on related topics ranging from Walt Whitman (whose words appear in the book) to mental health.

A sweet middle-grade novel about the power of art.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73328-650-3

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Sourland Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 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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TIME VILLAINS

From the Time Villains series , Vol. 1

Historical guests come to dinner and chaos ensues in this uproarious debut.

Twelve-year-old Javier Santiago’s not doing so well at Finistere, his slightly cool, slightly weird semi-castle of a school in suburban Maryland. He’s at risk of failing sixth grade and falling behind his brainiac, history-obsessed best friend, Wiki. Then comes the annual all-school project: invite three guests, living or dead, to dinner, then write an essay. For a budding chef like Javi, that’s a piece of cake. Trouble arises when Javi uses his family’s magical antique dining room table to accidentally pull his guests into the present day, including the infamous Blackbeard, who escapes before he can be sent back in time. Blackbeard wants to use the table to summon his fearsome crew and enact his plans to take over the modern world. Worse yet, the dreadful pirate is hilariously popping up all over Finistere, working as the school groundskeeper to ensure the success of his sinister plans. With the help of Brady, Javi’s tough-as-nails younger sister, the boys work to take down Blackbeard while uncovering the school’s mysterious secrets. Featuring a diverse cast led by the Puerto Rican siblings and Haitian American Wiki, grand doses of humor, and an irreverent take on some of history’s well-known figures, Piñeiro's book scores with this tale of friendship, magic, and adventure. A breakneck pace and Javi’s colorful narration hold things together as the thrilling zaniness piles up.

Magnificent. (list of characters) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-049-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A gripping, atmospheric tale of sorcery, secrets, and sisterhood, infused with the titular pinch of magic.

A PINCH OF MAGIC

From the Pinch of Magic series , Vol. 1

When an ancient curse threatens her life and the lives of her sisters, Betty Widdershins seeks a way to break it.

Adventurous, 13-year-old Betty and her two sisters—Fliss, elder, and Charlie, younger—all live on the island of Crowstone in a decrepit village inn operated by their grandmother Bunny, who has always been strangely reluctant to let her granddaughters go anywhere. After Betty’s abortive attempt to surreptitiously leave Crowstone, Bunny reveals the family secret: All Widdershins girls have been under a curse for over 150 years. If one ever leaves Crowstone, she will die by the next sunset. Bunny gives Fliss a mirror, Betty nesting dolls, and Charlie a traveling bag, each containing a different magical power, to use if they need to hide or escape quickly. Intent on altering their fate, the sisters accidentally trigger the curse by leaving Crowstone while helping a young stranger escape from prison. For heroine Betty, who has “spent her life wishing for bigger things,” the imminent threat of losing her sisters proves life-changing. Facing death by the end of the day, Betty must rely on the magical objects, her sisters, and clever thinking to uncover the origins of the Widdershins curse while simultaneously confronting a rapid-fire series of perilous plot twists, betrayals, and shocking revelations in an effort to remake her family history. Betty and her family appear to be white.

A gripping, atmospheric tale of sorcery, secrets, and sisterhood, infused with the titular pinch of magic. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-19331-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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