SOMEBODY'S GIRL

In a companion to Chance and the Butterfly (2011), released simultaneously, ultra-whiny fourth-grader Martha is teamed with foster child Chance to work on an extended school project. Martha has lots of issues: She's adopted, a fact she was okay with until her adoptive mother got pregnant; her birth mother is trying to establish a better relationship with her, although Martha definitely doesn’t love the woman; she’s alienated all of her friends with her prickly attitude; and her adoptive parents must not love her any more since they keep expecting her to help out a bit. Martha sometimes manages to put a good face on her dejection and anger, so the adults around her seem oblivious to her nearly poisonous attitude, but her peers are quick to discover her angst. With the exception of the occasionally tolerant Chance, a boy with a few adjustment issues of his own, she has become a pariah. While children are rarely angels, making Martha’s baditude believable enough, she is a hard character to spend time with. Many readers relatively new to longer books may be unwilling to plow through 15 chapters focused on a girl they would most likely have little patience with if they knew her and so may miss the hidden message of looking beneath the surface at kids that present friendship challenges. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55469-383-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS

On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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