THE COTTONMOUTH CLUB

It’s summer, 1963, and Air Force brat Mitch Valentine is glad to bid adieu to sixth grade. He has his summer planned out to the last minute with his best friend TK, until his parents announce the family will spend a couple months with his maternal grandfather in Pitkin, Louisiana while his father goes in for special training. As if the horror of country cousins weren’t bad enough, there’s no AC or TV! Mitch’s adventures mount with each chapter: He’s chased by a bull, burnt on a rope swing and the cause of a near fatal incident involving an Army convoy and some cardboard aliens. Mitch warms to his situation and his cousins—not to mention his cousin Gary’s sweetheart Skeeter before the summer draws to a happy conclusion. Marcum’s first may be a bit sluggish in places, but it makes for a wonderful historical novel for boys not interested in war stories. The characters and the bayou breathe, and the hijinks will leave ’em laughing. Here are adventures worthy of Peck’s Soup for a new generation. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 10, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-31562-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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