The myriad themes explored are compelling, but the execution gets in the way.

FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME

A transracial adoptee navigates a new school, a mentally ill parent, and questions about her identity.

Eleven-year-old Keda, who is black and was adopted as an infant, has just moved to Albuquerque with her parents and older sister, Eve, leaving her best friend (and fellow black adoptee), Lena, behind. At school and around town, Keda knows she sticks out like a sore thumb next to her white family. When her musician father leaves for a world tour, Keda and Eve are left with their mother, whose undiagnosed, unmanaged bipolar disorder is spiraling out of control. The portrayal of their mother’s disability is moving, but stylistic choices make the novel a difficult one to navigate, particularly for a middle-grade audience. Letters between Lena and Keda (both handwritten and in the form of Tumblr posts) and sporadic free-verse chapters break up Keda’s first-person account, but the latter have an arbitrary rather than organic feel. On a sentence level, Lockington has such an aversion to commas that dialogue tags appear not to be attached to the speech they reference; asides, addresses, and appositives feel jumbled inside sentences; and list items aren’t separated. An overreliance on sentence fragments causes them to lose any dramatic effect. From a characterization standpoint, aside from family members, too many others come across as straw men, walking onstage to hurl a racist slur and then vanishing from the narrative.

The myriad themes explored are compelling, but the execution gets in the way. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-30804-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

ODDER

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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