Connor’s gift for creating complex characters extends to the supporting characters and makes this a compelling read.

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THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE

Under a cloud of suspicion after the death of his best friend, a boy with a “trifecta of troubles” continues as best he can.

Lt. Baird is sure seventh-grader Mason Buttle knows more about the death of Benny Kilmartin than the story he’s told over and over. Now he’s writing it, with the help of speech-recognition software in the school social worker’s office (a process that is reproduced with unlikely accuracy). In a moving first-person narrative, Connor reveals a remarkably distinct and memorable character. Loyal and good-natured, Mason is large for his age, highly dyslexic, abnormally sweaty, and the regular target of bullying neighbor boys. He feels his emotions as colors—green for stress, shades of pink for happiness. There hasn’t been much pink in Mason’s life in the 16 months since Benny’s accidental death, but now there’s a new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, and the bullying neighbor’s dog, Moonie, who prefers Mason. Using Mason’s conversations with the detective and his voice-to-text storytelling, the author weaves the back story into a narrative of redemption chronicling his growing friendships. The climactic revelation reveals the gaps in everyone’s understanding of the event and propels his struggling, white, apple-farming family—grandmother, unemployed uncle, and the stray, shopping-addicted young woman his uncle brought home—to make some needed changes.

Connor’s gift for creating complex characters extends to the supporting characters and makes this a compelling read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249143-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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