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From the Sourland Mountain Series series , Vol. 1

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

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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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


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019


Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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