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A lucid and hopeful story of a troubled kid navigating troubled times.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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In Milligan’s chapter book, a fourth grader with anxiety struggles to fit in at a new school when Covid-19 hits and the world is turned upside down.

The narrator and protagonist, Lucy Beacher, is in fourth grade and has suffered from severe anxiety since moving with her family from Michigan to Connecticut. Lucy’s big brother Charlie is a “yes-man” and has already befriended Alex, a popular kid (and a bully), but Lucy’s anxiety makes forging new friendships seem impossible. She’s not just terrified of being “weird”; Lucy also seems lonely, although she is close with her family. A few weeks after starting at her new school, the Covid-19 lockdown sends all the students home indefinitely. By summer break, Lucy’s family feel the restlessness of quarantine. Lucy begins to explore the neighborhood on her bike, meeting some of the residents—including lively old Cece, with her wonderful garden, and, eventually, two girls Lucy’s age who have come to stay for the summer. Confident and outgoing Bea bunks with her Granny across the lane, and cool Jade (with green tips dyed into her black hair) stays with her divorced dad and Nai Nai down the lane. Lucy begins to learn that everyone is different in their own way, and that being a good friend takes courage, especially during tumultuous times. This is a character-driven narrative, and the pace is steady and reflective. Milligan’s descriptions of anxiety are particularly honest and visceral: “‘Not now,’ I whisper to myself. ‘Please not now.’ No matter how hard I clench my fists, I feel it coming…My heart, my breath, my body, and my thoughts swirl up into a windy, whipping circle…I lose my breath.” The dialogue feels flat at times, but Lucy’s voice skillfully engenders empathy with a character who habitually eschews interpersonal connections. A whole generation of school kids disoriented by the chaos of Covid-19 and its aftermath needs stories to identify with, and Milligan’s tale ably fits the bill.

A lucid and hopeful story of a troubled kid navigating troubled times.

Pub Date: May 13, 2024

ISBN: 9798869315083

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Paper House

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2024

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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

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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