Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring.

MEASURING UP

An aspiring young chef discovers her innate resourcefulness and the courage of her convictions.

In this contemporary immigrant story, 12-year-old Cici moves from Taiwan to Seattle with her professional parents, who promote a straightforward formula for success: “good grades, good college, good job.” Cici, however, is sad to leave her grandmother and is determined to bring A-má to the United States for her 70th birthday. When a junior cooking contest presents the prospect of funding A-má’s airfare, Cici, an able chef, aims to win and begins making “American” foods. Working with her in-contest partner Miranda, Cici learns to make porcini risotto, not to overcook pasta, and that she is a super taster. This revelation reminds readers of the secret spice mixture that A-má taught Cici when she was little—will it help her win the contest? Similar hints of superhero identity lurk throughout this textured graphic novel filled with heart and humor, centering girls with budding ambitions, subverting tropes, and celebrating everyday heroes—including the librarian who introduces Cici to Julia Child. Word to the wise: Readers should not pick up this book while hungry unless they have treats nearby such as Taiwanese minced pork over rice, or at least a bubble tea to go with that pineapple cake and zucchini chocolate cookie.

Bold and nuanced, this intercultural “cook book” dishes up hearty morsels well worth savoring. (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297387-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some.

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WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED

A Somali boy living in a refugee camp in Kenya tries to make a future for himself and his brother in this near memoir interpreted as a graphic novel by collaborator Jamieson.

Omar Mohamed lives in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya with his younger brother, Hassan, who has a seizure disorder, and Fatuma, an elderly woman assigned to foster them in their parents’ absence. The boys’ father was killed in Somalia’s civil war, prompting them to flee on foot when they were separated from their mother. They desperately hope she is still alive and looking for them, as they are for her. The book covers six years, during which Omar struggles with decisions about attending school and how much hope to have about opportunities to resettle in a new land, like the United States. Through Omar’s journey, and those of his friends and family members, readers get a close, powerful view of the trauma and uncertainty that attend life as a refugee as well as the faith, love, and support from unexpected quarters that get people through it. Jamieson’s characteristically endearing art, warmly colored by Geddy, perfectly complements Omar’s story, conjuring memorable and sympathetic characters who will stay with readers long after they close the book. Photographs of the brothers and an afterword provide historical context; Mohamed and Jamieson each contribute an author’s note.

This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some. (Graphic memoir. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55391-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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