THE WILLOUGHBYS

With this fey venture into kiddie Gothic, the august two-time Newbery winner and author of the beloved Anastasia Krupnik series proves that a writer can always reinvent herself. Lacing her narrative with references to classics from the hoariest corners of the canon, Lowry channels her inner Snicket to great effect. The Willoughby children—Timothy, Barnaby, Barnaby and Jane—do “the kinds of things that children in old-fashioned stories do.” Sort of. When they find a baby abandoned on their doorstep, they re-abandon her on a neighbor’s doorstep. And when they realize that their parents want to get rid of them, too, they develop a plan to do away with them first. Abetted by their Nanny (who is “not one bit like that fly-by-night [Mary Poppins]”) and taking inspiration from their storybooks, they thwart their parents’ plans and, via a series of increasingly absurd plot twists, find themselves happily rid of their ghastly parents and reunited with the once-abandoned baby. Readers who are willing to give themselves up entirely to the sly foolishness will relish this sparklingly smart satire, which treats them with collegial familiarity. (snort-inducing glossary) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-97974-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things.

THE PERFECT SCORE

From the Perfect Score series , Vol. 1

Middle school students contend with standardized tests.

Flawed and gifted in equal amounts, Natalie, Randi, Trevor, Mark, Gavin, and Scott, whether they know it or not, are all looking for solutions. Multiple points of view within the conceit of an investigation of a standardized-test cheating scheme focus on each student’s personal, social, and familial issues, tackled in different ways with support from their teachers and friends. However, many of the fixes are formulaic or temporary—for example, though they’ve made friendships or improved in reading, there are no plans in place for the kids with behavioral or learning disorders—and readers will have to think outside of the book and past the happy ending to realize that the problems haven’t been fully solved. While the negative impact of standardized tests on students is addressed provocatively, the sometimes-facile treatment of other problems—an abusive brother, parental judgement and criticism, relative poverty, ethical conundrums, friendlessness, dyslexia, impulse control—lends the book a superficial air. (Race is not an issue explored, as the book seems to subscribe to the white default.) Still, readers will be drawn in by the lively voices and eventful lives of these likable and engaging students and may gain some insight and empathy into the plights of others.

An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93825-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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