The votes are in: This one is a winner.

PRESIDENT OF POPLAR LANE

From the Poplar Kids series , Vol. 2

Poplar Lane’s seventh-graders are back for a second outing following Payback on Poplar Lane (2018), exploring magic, manipulation, and politics.

Clover, a popular girl, and Mike, a budding magician, are both nominated to run for class president. New kid Amelia, a self-described “wonk,” and Peter, a fervent entrepreneur, are running Mike’s campaign, while Clover’s best friend, Rachel, is managing hers. Unfortunately, Mike’s managers craft an image of the candidate that’s mostly deceitful, turning him from a boy who’s happy to sit quietly with headphones on, comfortably blocking out the world, to a glad-handing, baby-kissing fraud. He’s only running so he can use the election to help him get into magic camp. Clover is using her campaign to try to restore her connection to Rachel, who’s become friends with Amelia, leaving her feeling excluded. The story is presented in the nicely distinct alternating voices of Clover, who’s the second of five sisters and also coming to grips with her mother’s newest pregnancy, and Mike, who’s sure his father is disappointed in him for not being athletic. Mike is black, standing out among the mostly white central cast. In a refreshing variation on most middle school fiction, all of the kids have good points and bad, creating a full roster of believably rounded characters navigating sometimes-silly situations, rich with droll, timely humor.

The votes are in: This one is a winner. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29093-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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