Goldblatt’s outstanding tale ponders a timeless, universal dilemma as a remarkable boy seeks to reconcile the heartbreak and...

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FINDING THE WORM

From the Twerp series , Vol. 2

Goldblatt’s sequel to Twerp (2013) chronicles the momentous events of Julian’s seventh-grade year.

A friend’s devastating illness and a false accusation of vandalism upend Julian’s life. His friend Quentin’s diagnosis of a brain tumor occurs at a pivotal moment, just as he is preparing for his bar mitzvah. Julian seeks guidance from his rabbi about his struggles to comprehend life, heaven and God. Their conversations address the uncertainty and inequity of life’s fortunes and misfortunes. Goldblatt movingly depicts the steadfast friendship enjoyed by Julian’s group of pals as they support Quentin, deftly painting the small moments. In one, when the ailing Quentin asks to join in on a game of tag, it results in the spontaneous creation of “Piggyback Tag,” perfectly capturing the solidarity and joy of true friendships. Interwoven with his anxiety over Quentin’s illness is Julian’s evolving awareness that his past will always be a part of his present. After being blamed for vandalizing a student’s artwork, Julian must write an essay on citizenship for his principal. Although he initially resists, Julian’s essay becomes a distillation of his experiences, reflecting his growing understanding of life’s complexities. When Julian discovers a seemingly unbearable truth, he must summon the resolve to weather the trials life may deliver.

Goldblatt’s outstanding tale ponders a timeless, universal dilemma as a remarkable boy seeks to reconcile the heartbreak and uplift that punctuate his life. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-39108-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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