A timely, entertaining, unforgettable story about family, friendship, and finding your voice.

SOMETHING TO SAY

A new friend brings Jenae new challenges that move her out of her comfort zone.

On the first day of junior high, Jenae doesn’t have any friends, and she feels invisible. Then she meets redhead Aubrey, who is also Black, and he’s a huge fan of “Astrid Dane,” Jenae’s favorite YouTube show. Aubrey is loud and un–self-conscious while Jenae just wants to fade into the background. A class debate assignment is Jenae’s worst nightmare but a dream come true for Aubrey, who aspires to join the debate team. When they partner up, can Jenae face her fear of public speaking—and will her friendship with Aubrey survive? Jenae’s funny, candid voice makes her instantly endearing. Readers will also relate to her relationships with her tough-but-loving mother, her big brother, and her grandpa, who encourages Jenae to speak up. Fans of Ramée’s A Good Kind of Trouble (2019) will appreciate the subplot involving a controversial proposal to change the name of Jenae’s school, from John Wayne Junior High to Sylvia Mendez Junior High, to honor the Mexican American girl who integrated a California school years before Brown v. Board of Education. Indigo’s grayscale illustrations punctuate the generously leaded text.

A timely, entertaining, unforgettable story about family, friendship, and finding your voice. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283671-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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