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

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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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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