Iris’ adventures will engross readers, though Deaf and hearing audiences will likely experience them differently.

SONG FOR A WHALE

A Deaf girl won’t give up her quest to connect with a lonely whale.

Like many Deaf children, 12-year-old Iris has hearing parents, attends school with an interpreter, and has difficulty communicating with her classmates (especially the girl who believes her own invented gibberish is ASL). She had a close relationship with her Deaf grandparents, but her grandmother has withdrawn after her husband’s death, and Iris’ mom, a child of Deaf adults, has her own anxieties around her daughter’s need for Deaf community. The white girl’s troubles contrast with her black friend Wendell’s, whose hearing family is invested in Deaf language and culture. When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who sings at a frequency unintelligible to other whales, she feels an immediate kinship and concocts a plan to create a song Blue 55 can hear. A quick-moving, suspenseful plot takes her from junkyards to a cruise ship as she gains the confidence to stand up for herself and take control of her life. Written by a sign-language interpreter, this story incorporates important elements of Deaf culture and the expansiveness and richness of ASL but makes concessions to hearing readers in its recording of conversations. (ASL dialogue is appropriately rendered in fluent English.) The final suspenseful scenes strain credulity, and lengthy descriptions of frequencies and radio repair drag occasionally, but this remains a satisfying, energetic read.

Iris’ adventures will engross readers, though Deaf and hearing audiences will likely experience them differently. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7023-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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

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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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