A beautifully written and thoroughly modern family breaking-and-making story.

THREE PENNIES

As tectonic plates shift underneath San Francisco, 11-year-old Marin rearranges the spaces in her own heart for the woman who wants to be her mother.

A ward of the state since her birth mother abandoned her at age 4, Marin Greene has finally become adoptable. And Dr. Lucy Chang really hopes to adopt her. Marin has always believed that the mother she barely remembers would return and the I Ching would connect them. But it’s not the three cast pennies used in I Ching divination, it’s Marin’s own detective work that leads up to their meeting and her devastating discovery that what she’d been told was true: Summer Greene didn’t and doesn’t want to be a mother. An out-of-the-box solution, the interracial adoption of a white child by a single woman, a lesbian, Asian-American doctor, is the right one. This moving story is carefully crafted, woven together in short, short chapters focusing on different characters: Summer, Lucy, a rules-following social worker, a Confucius-quoting owl, and the tectonic plates underlying California. As they meet and rub against each other, tension mounts. The imminent earthquake and the threat of another failed placement add further suspense to a moving narrative that, at its heart, considers family bonds. The inclusion of Owl will alert readers that this tale is not entirely realistic, but it is entirely satisfying.

A beautifully written and thoroughly modern family breaking-and-making story. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7187-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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