The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis

ALMOST INVISIBLE

A 13-year-old girl flees her abusive home to live secretly in her school.

Jewel tolerates her parents’ abuse, from the theft of her babysitting money to outright violence, in order to protect her developmentally disabled kid brother. When one of her dad’s drunken friends tries to rape her, her parents turn a blind eye. Jewel knows that she needs to run away for her own safety. She spends 10 days roughing it before she runs out of carefully hoarded food and returns to town—and to school. Jewel attends classes by day and sleeps in the art-room supply cupboard at night. Maya and Lily, two well-off girls, notice her odd behavior and seek her out. In alternating sections, Maya and Jewel share their perspectives on Jewel’s solo adventure. Though Maya’s aid is invaluable, it also leads to Jewel’s discovery by adults. Maya and Jewel, who both appear to be white, come from sharply different social classes. With no other poor families present in the story, the poverty of Jewel’s parents becomes inextricably tied to their abuse. Their bad grammar, cursing, cigarette smoking, motorcycles, and clothing (“way too young for a mother, cleavage,” thinks Maya) all paint a lazily stereotyped picture of criminal trash, in opposition to the kindly rich parents found elsewhere. When Jewel’s situation is wrapped up tidily, that frees Maya up for her next rescue project: a Syrian refugee.

The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis . (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-078-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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