This is how it feels to find out you may be the villain and the hero of your own story.

READ REVIEW

INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS

A grieving New Mexico preteen learns to trust those around her.

Yolanda’s grandmother, called Wela, is dying, which will leave Yolanda and her twin sister, Sonja, without a guardian, as their widower father is deployed in Afghanistan. Between those losses, the death of her beloved grandfather, and the betrayal of her best friend, Ghita, who replaced Yolanda with Sonja, Yolanda feels utterly alone. It doesn’t help that Wela and Sonja both have the family “gift” of a supernatural connection with nature and Yolanda has none. The biracial girl’s bond with her Latinx maternal grandparents (her father is white) comes from their shared love of science—Welo was a geneticist determined to find out the source of the family trait—but since his death, Wela has wanted nothing to do with it. But Wela knows she’s dying, and she chooses Yolanda for one last, odd favor. To her chagrin, Yolanda is followed on this quest by her sister, Ghita, and Ghita’s brother, Hasik. (Ghita and Hasik are South Asian.) As Wela uses her remaining strength to tell the children the story of her family and their strange gifts, Yolanda finds her own confidence. This heartfelt family saga weaves together science and magic believably and sensitively. The cast of characters is, refreshingly, almost entirely devoid of white people.

This is how it feels to find out you may be the villain and the hero of your own story. (Magical realism. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4967-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Did you like this book?

Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions.

THE UNTEACHABLES

An isolated class of misfits and a teacher on the edge of retirement are paired together for a year of (supposed) failure.

Zachary Kermit, a 55-year-old teacher, has been haunted for the last 27 years by a student cheating scandal that has earned him the derision of his colleagues and killed his teaching spirit. So when he is assigned to teach the Self-Contained Special Eighth-Grade Class—a dumping ground for “the Unteachables,” students with “behavior issues, learning problems, juvenile delinquents”—he is unfazed, as he is only a year away from early retirement. His relationship with his seven students—diverse in temperament, circumstance, and ability—will be one of “uncomfortable roommates” until June. But when Mr. Kermit unexpectedly stands up for a student, the kids of SCS-8 notice his sense of “justice and fairness.” Mr. Kermit finds he may even care a little about them, and they start to care back in their own way, turning a corner and bringing along a few ghosts from Mr. Kermit’s past. Writing in the alternating voices of Mr. Kermit, most of his students, and two administrators, Korman spins a narrative of redemption and belief in exceeding self-expectations. Naming conventions indicate characters of different ethnic backgrounds, but the book subscribes to a white default. The two students who do not narrate may be students of color, and their characterizations subtly—though arguably inadequately—demonstrate the danger of preconceptions.

Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-256388-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more