A quick, entertaining read for fans of frenemy fiction.

TRUE TO YOUR SELFIE

Mean Girls goes to a New Jersey middle school in the social media age.

Life is perfect as Ella Jane Plaza enters seventh grade. She and her best friend, Morgan Middleton, are the local internet sensation #Morgan&Ella. With more than 10,000 followers on all the best “socials,” the duo are on their way to “global multiplatform domination.” Maintaining her image as the ukulele-playing “Goofball Goddess” sidekick to Morgan’s “Girlboss Goddess Next Door” isn’t easy, but as long as Ella does exactly as privileged, spoiled Morgan says, everything is harmonious. When Ella, who’s never been particularly good at anything except being epically unorganized, discovers she has a natural aptitude for fencing, she has to hide it from Morgan. Such a “terminally uncute” sport is bad for their brand and will make #Morgan&Ella (but mostly Morgan) look bad. Eventually, Ella, who narrates with sincerity and uncertainty, must decide whether or not to continue being untrue to herself in order to maintain her popularity. Ella knows Morgan is manipulative and cruel (particularly to Ella’s nerdy former best friend) but rationalizes Morgan’s unkind words and actions as acts of charity and wisdom. Notably, Morgan’s meanness isn’t explained away as a result of neglectful high-power parents. Olive-skinned Ella is of Mediterranean descent, and Morgan is white; their community is also largely white.

A quick, entertaining read for fans of frenemy fiction. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29699-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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