Joyful, heartbreaking, completely bonkers, and exuberantly alive.

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FELIX YZ

A freak scientific accident leaves an ordinary Maine boy atomically bonded to a fourth-dimensional being in this debut middle-grade novel.

“If it wasn’t for the fused-with-Zyx-thing, I suppose I would just be normal—whatever that means,” writes Felix Yz in his “secret blog,” first published by Bunker as online interactive fiction. Counting down the days until an experimental Procedure might free him (possibly fatally) from the alien bond that has made movement and speech painfully difficult for 10 years, the white eighth-grader chronicles the quirks of his loving family, his passion for drawing and writing, his run-ins with bullies, and his awkward crush on another boy at school. Meanwhile Zyx (typing through Felix’s fingers) provides running commentary as something of a “wise fool” archetype, dispensing gnomic truths and mystical insight with the eager charm of a hyperintelligent puppy. But the outré premise is only the setup for this unique, whimsical tale; it’s also about webcomics and chess and geometry and jazz and the astonishing “threeness of things.” It’s about the suffocating terror of death and the sweet agony of first love. It’s about transcending binaries, both the obvious—Felix’s mother is bisexual, his grandparent gender-fluid, the boy of his dreams both biracial (black/white) and bilingual—and those more subtle and profound, all in the most gloriously matter-of-fact way. Above all, it’s about Felix’s voice: acutely perceptive, disarmingly witty, devastatingly honest, and utterly captivating.

Joyful, heartbreaking, completely bonkers, and exuberantly alive. (Science fiction. 10-adult)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28850-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER

A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A story about showing great courage and perseverance when life gets shuffled.

PLAYING THE CARDS YOU'RE DEALT

Spades is as much a game of partnership and trust as it is about cunning and trash talk, but when the deck seems stacked against Anthony, he’s forced to consider what it means to be a good card player as well as a good (young) man.

Ten-year-old South Carolina native Anthony Arnold Joplin prefers Ant; to his chagrin, however, the nickname “little man” has stuck. He’s short. He gets it. But when his spades partner and best friend Jamal’s constant ribbing leads even to Shirley, the cute new girl from Texas, teasing Ant about his height, he starts questioning his skills, his relationships, and how his so-called best friend makes him feel. Eventually, Ant and Shirley hit it off despite Ant’s being too shy to admit it, but issues in the Joplin household and Jamal’s own volatility put a lot of stress on this budding relationship. Ant’s father is an alcoholic and gambler with a lot of reductive opinions on masculinity that confuse the naturally compassionate and thoughtful Ant. Spades becomes a way for Ant to prove himself to his father and hopefully mend some familial wounds, as well as a compelling allegory for the ways he must navigate some uniquely thorny setbacks. A charismatic omniscient narrator explains the intricacies of the game and its venerable position in Black American culture. Realistic character and community portrayals give a difficult story a great amount of heart. Main characters are Black.

A story about showing great courage and perseverance when life gets shuffled. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-34853-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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