With a strong, never-preachy anti-bullying message, this one scores a touchdown.

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BRAVE LIKE THAT

A sixth grader who’s struggling to find a path forward that doesn’t disappoint his adoptive father befriends a bullied boy who’s delightfully comfortable in his own skin.

His father was a talented football player, so Cyrus believes that if he doesn’t succeed on the gridiron, he won’t live up to his expectations. But last year was the first year of full tackle, and Cyrus hates it. He finds far greater satisfaction helping out alongside some friendly girls at the local animal shelter, where a stray dog that he befriended has been taken. To volunteer there he must lie his way out of practices and deceive his father, too. Meanwhile, he conceals another serious problem: Even though he reads fluently, he comprehends almost nothing. When his two football-star friends begin to unmercifully pick on puny, smart, and unconventional Eduardo, Cyrus is faced with a daunting challenge. He’s convinced he’s not brave, but can he find the courage to stand up to his friends and protect the boy he finds understands him much better than they do? Cyrus is movingly supported by his grandmother, who can no longer speak after a stroke but whose love shines through. Cyrus’ plight believably expands to seem almost insurmountable, but help comes from surprising directions in this moving, character-driven tale. Cyrus and his family seem to be white; Eduardo is Latinx.

With a strong, never-preachy anti-bullying message, this one scores a touchdown. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287811-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths.

MAÑANALAND

A boy journeys to self-discovery through the power of stories and traditions.

Eleven-year-old Maximiliano Córdoba is ready for an idyllic summer. He plans to work hard as a builder for his father and train for fútbol tryouts. Plus, Max hopes dad will take him to visit the towering ruins of La Reina Gigante, a haunted hideout used in the past by the Guardians to hide refugees as they fled Abismo, a war-torn, neighboring dictatorship. However, when Max must provide his birth certificate to join the team, he feels his dream summer crumble away. The document disappeared years ago, along with his mother, the woman with whom Max shares “leche quemada” eyes. Soon, Papá leaves on a three-week journey to request a new one, and Max finds himself torn between two desires: to know the truth about why his mother left when he was a baby and to make the team. As Max discovers the enchanting stories his grandfather has been telling him for years have an actual foothold in reality, he must choose between his own dreams and those of others. Kirkus Prize winner Ryan (Echo, 2015) beautifully layers thought-provoking topics onto her narrative while keeping readers immersed in the story’s world. Although set in the fictional country of Santa Maria, “somewhere in the Américas,” the struggles of refugee immigrants and the compassion of those who protect the travelers feel very relevant.

This tightly packed, powerful fantasy contains resonant truths. (Fantasy. 7-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-15786-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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