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From the Mallory series , Vol. 20

Readers of the series will probably eagerly scoop up another somewhat vanilla-flavored entry.

Like most of the kids in grades four through six in her school, Mallory’s thrilled to hear they’re going to have six weeks of arts electives—until she is assigned the tuba. What’s a girl to do?

Mallory and her classmates can choose among orchestra, drama, ballet or band—Mallory’s third choice. When the dreaded day arrives, Ms. Anderson inexplicably assigns Mallory to play tuba, in spite of her very strong desire to play anything else—not the best way to inspire enthusiasm for musical instruments! Mallory hates it from the first and is caught up in envy of her friends who got their top-choice electives and in embarrassment for the terrible sounds emerging from the tuba. It’s all made worse by her distaste for practice. Naturally, things eventually all work out for the best. Many readers of early chapter books will already be familiar with Mallory since this is the 20th in the series. Slightly stylized but nonetheless evocative black-and-white illustrations accompany the relatively simple text. Mallory’s first-person narration offers an amusing take on her difficult situation but lacks the spirited depth of voices such as Amber Brown’s and Clementine’s. Perhaps due to Mallory’s primarily female audience, all of the dance participants are “ballerinas”; how odd to eliminate the male students from this choice.

Readers of the series will probably eagerly scoop up another somewhat vanilla-flavored entry. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6075-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A wild romp that champions making space for vulnerable creatures and each other.

A boy with ADHD explores nature and himself.

Eleven-year-old Jake Rizzi just wants to be seen as “normal”; he blames his brain for leading him into trouble and making him do things that annoy his peers and even his own parents. Case in point: He’s stuck spending a week in rural Oregon with an aunt he barely knows while his parents go on vacation. Jake’s reluctance changes as he learns about the town’s annual festival, during which locals search for a fabled turtle. But news of this possibly undiscovered species has spread. Although Aunt Hettle insists to Jake that it’s only folklore, the fame-hungry convene, sure that the Ruby-Backed Turtle is indeed real—just as Jake discovers is the case. Keeping its existence secret is critical to protecting the rare creature from a poacher and others with ill intentions. Readers will keep turning pages to find out how Jake and new friend Mia will foil the caricatured villains. Along the way, Bramucci packs in teachable moments around digital literacy, mindfulness, and ecological interdependence, along with the message that “the only way to protect the natural world is to love it.” Jake’s inner monologue elucidates the challenges and benefits of ADHD as well as practical coping strategies. Whether or not readers share Jake’s diagnosis, they’ll empathize with his insecurities. Jake and his family present white; Mia is Black, and names of secondary characters indicate some ethnic diversity.

A wild romp that champions making space for vulnerable creatures and each other. (Adventure. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781547607020

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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