Warm and wise for middle-grade readers who appreciate just a hint of the fantastic.

MOLLY & PIM AND THE MILLIONS OF STARS

When her mother is accidentally transformed by a powerful potion, Molly learns to accept the magic in her own life.

Ten-year-old Molly would like an ordinary mother, not someone who collects herbs in the woods, makes healthy, homemade snacks, and picks her up from school on a bicycle built for two. But that’s before her mother accidentally drinks a concoction meant to speed an acorn’s growth and turns into a tree. Left on her own with only her dog and disdainful cat for company, Molly makes a new friend, learns something surprising about an old one, and finds her own “particular kind of light.” Though magic is involved, this story of self-discovery is mainly about friendship and appreciating differences. Best friend Ellen’s life seems wonderfully commonplace, but Ellen worries she’s boring. And, surprisingly, Molly is intrigued by Pim, “the oddest boy in school.” When he seems open to the strangeness of her terrible new problem, she enlists his help. The Australian setting is unobtrusively revealed by occasional mention of specific species; there’s no mention of race or skin color, though the title characters are depicted as white in cover art. The author’s black-and-white sketches of flowers and other important features of the story head chapters and occasionally accompany text. Molly's notebook, with illustrations and descriptions of plants and their uses, completes the package.

Warm and wise for middle-grade readers who appreciate just a hint of the fantastic. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55040-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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