STORM DOG

An entertaining tale of angst, good dogs, and satisfying achievement.

Ariel, smart but a bit plain, is her mother’s constant disappointment.

She can’t begin to reach the bar set by her gorgeous, blonde older sister, Gloria. Their mother has big Hollywood plans for Gloria, and Ariel is, sadly, just in the way. So when she discovers a lost and frantic German shepherd she calls Duke and meets Staff Sgt. Josephina Martínez, a former K-9 handler who’s retired to a lonely cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains to recover from her PTSD, they become more than just solace to the frustrated eighth grader. Ariel finally has a supportive adult in her life, and she has a mission: to help Duke overcome his fears. Since Gloria has been selected to be one of the princesses of the huge annual parade, Ariel decides to train Duke to dance among the marchers, at first hoping to upstage Gloria but later because she’s determined to have pride in her own and Duke’s abilities. Then she acquires six other dogs from the local animal shelter—not quite stolen, but nearly so. All of this combines to create a triumphant parade performance but also a major public confrontation with her nasty mother and sister. Ariel’s narration initially feels more authorial than young teen, but later in the tale she hits a more believable stride. With the exception of Ariel, characters seem rather predictable. Ariel and her family are white; Sgt. Josie is Puerto Rican.

An entertaining tale of angst, good dogs, and satisfying achievement. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243000-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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