Sweet teen girl adventures, reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables.

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HETTY

Sixth-grader Hetty adjusts to a new school, finds a forest refuge, and learns the reason for a lurking stranger in West’s first installment of a Truman-era YA trilogy.

Henrietta “Hetty” Annette Lawrence tries to pay attention in math class but daydreams about the word “hypotenuse.” Born with a heart defect, now fixed by an operation, Hetty had been home-schooled in recent years by doting parents Dora and Daniel, the latter a lawyer who shares his tales of working in the Forest Service. The family has moved to a new home to be close to Hetty’s new school, the all-girls Haxton Country Academy. A bit shy around the others, she often hangs out in “Hannah,” a mighty oak in nearby “Olive Witch” forest (the name comes from Hetty mishearing her father say “all of which”). While hurt when not invited to a birthday party, Hetty also makes strides in her new world, including befriending schoolmate Melinda Morganthal, who has a considerate (and handsome) older brother, and gaining some attention by winning a local spelling bee. By novel’s end, there is a growing sense that Hetty is being watched. A dramatic act of nature clears up this mystery, significantly changing her life. West (Longer than Forevermore, 2013, etc.) includes an illustrated map and sketches of flowing-haired Hetty. While there is a sense of the time period, including mention of Daniel and Dora’s new 1949 Studebaker, physical location is left a bit hazy, perhaps to reflect this delightful heroine’s fanciful mind, although there’s missed opportunity to more richly fictionalize a real destination as did Anne of Green Gables, this work’s obvious influence. Still, West effectively builds suspense for this book’s final revelations, including shifting occasionally from Hetty’s third-person perspective to plant hints via other characters’ viewpoints. Best of all, parents will appreciate the “clean” nature of this novel, which should still please a tweener audience given its tee-up of the romance no doubt to come in the next installment of this series.

Sweet teen girl adventures, reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables.

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988678477

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Park Place Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

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THE BEST OF ME

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.

It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.

One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-62824-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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