A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.

PIERRE FRANÇOIS

5TH GRADE MISHAPS

In Stephens’ (Some Act of Vision, 2016, etc.) first middle-grade novel, a fifth-grader can’t wait to go to Adventure Camp with his classmates, but staying overnight might be a problem—because he still wets the bed.

Young Texan Pierre François loves Minecraft, hanging out with his best friends Max and Bo, and listening to his French father tell jokes. But he desperately wants to overcome his bed-wetting habit, and although doctors have tried numerous remedies, from using “big-boy diapers” to wearing special hooks on his pajamas, nothing has worked. When he soaks his sheets during a sleepover at Max’s house, he surreptitiously stuffs the sheets in the washing machine and pretends that nothing happened. Unfortunately, Pierre can’t hide his secret for much longer, as a class trip to Adventure Camp is coming up. During the trip, he bunks with Max and Max’s father; although they have to share their cabin with the school bully, they all get to enjoy canoeing, eating new foods, and searching for wildlife. But just when everything is looking up, Pierre wakes up to a soaked sleeping bag. What’s a kid to do? Stephens crafts a well-realized school environment, replete with friends, bullies, and caring teachers. Pierre’s first-person narration has a sincere tone, and his antics are sometimes reminiscent of those in Pierre’s favorite comic strip, Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.” Debut illustrator Yokochi provides simple images to highlight larger events, in a style similar to that in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate series; however, the pictures aren’t the focus of the book’s humor. Pierre’s bed-wetting angst is the book’s major theme, but Stephens also focuses on Pierre’s smaller victories, such as staying up late with a friend to play video games or realizing that the girl he likes knows his name. This lends the book a slow-paced, slice-of-life feel as readers come to know and appreciate Pierre’s world, and the resolution is both believable and satisfying.

A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61296-975-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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