Maddy’s spunky resilience will appeal to girls adjusting to their own changes.

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EVERY MISSING PIECE

While trying to solve the mystery of a missing boy, Maddy finds a new family.

Ever since her father died, Maddy Gaines has been anxious, performing weekly safety checks on her small-town North Carolina home and garnering the sheriff’s ire for calling in too many false alarms. When the 11-year-old not only becomes obsessed with the news reports about the abducted Billy Holcomb, but thinks she has spotted him in her own neighborhood, she knows she must uncover proof before reporting it this time. Maddy’s heartfelt first-person narration reveals how her recon missions to find out more about a new classmate named Eric leave her with increasing certainty that he’s actually Billy, as well as funny feelings for a boy for the first time. Adding to the light mystery are more areas of concern for the preteen: Her mother has recently remarried, and she and quirky Stan now want a new baby; her best friend, Cress, seems to be growing up faster than Maddy is ready to; and she’s afraid of losing the memories of her father. Conklin’s fine Southern storytelling, complete with Cheerwine, homemade pies, and pig pickin’s, blends these nuanced realities with care. A nail-biting ending brings hopeful resolutions, including a growing family that still honors Maddy’s dad. Maddy, her family, Billy, and Eric are white while Cress is black.

Maddy’s spunky resilience will appeal to girls adjusting to their own changes. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-04895-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions.

THE UNTEACHABLES

An isolated class of misfits and a teacher on the edge of retirement are paired together for a year of (supposed) failure.

Zachary Kermit, a 55-year-old teacher, has been haunted for the last 27 years by a student cheating scandal that has earned him the derision of his colleagues and killed his teaching spirit. So when he is assigned to teach the Self-Contained Special Eighth-Grade Class—a dumping ground for “the Unteachables,” students with “behavior issues, learning problems, juvenile delinquents”—he is unfazed, as he is only a year away from early retirement. His relationship with his seven students—diverse in temperament, circumstance, and ability—will be one of “uncomfortable roommates” until June. But when Mr. Kermit unexpectedly stands up for a student, the kids of SCS-8 notice his sense of “justice and fairness.” Mr. Kermit finds he may even care a little about them, and they start to care back in their own way, turning a corner and bringing along a few ghosts from Mr. Kermit’s past. Writing in the alternating voices of Mr. Kermit, most of his students, and two administrators, Korman spins a narrative of redemption and belief in exceeding self-expectations. Naming conventions indicate characters of different ethnic backgrounds, but the book subscribes to a white default. The two students who do not narrate may be students of color, and their characterizations subtly—though arguably inadequately—demonstrate the danger of preconceptions.

Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-256388-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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