Lively, funny, tender without being syrupy, and full of life.

ELEVEN AND HOLDING

Since Macy’s Iraq War–veteran father left the family to work on a “special project,” it seems like nothing is really right in her life.

The situation is exacerbated by her other issues: her beloved nana has died, and Macy is starting seventh grade in the fall without her BFF, Twee, a Vietnamese adoptee who’s a year younger. Then she meets Ginger, an endearingly oddball older woman who is looking for her lost dog, and Switch, a young teen skateboarder who leads a mysterious life and might just be a friend. Macy learns that her dad is just 100 miles away, so she plans to sneak off on a bus to try to bring him back, but she ends up riding there in the sidecar of a motorcycle driven by Switch, who has—sort of—stolen it. There are many hints that things aren’t as they seem. Ginger is confused; is her dog really lost, or maybe he’s dead? Could Switch be the runaway foster child that Macy’s mother, a probation officer, is looking for? Clues that things were far from good with Macy’s father before he left are also abundant, and canny readers will pick up on all of this before the reveal. It hardly matters though. Driven by attractive, colorful characters, this tale is immersive and engaging. With the exception of Twee, the major characters are white.

Lively, funny, tender without being syrupy, and full of life. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240547-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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