How preteen girls negotiate this supremely trying life passage is explored in some of the year’s best middle-grade releases;...

A SWIRL OF OCEAN

In this story of a change-averse preteen, the restless interplay between moon and sea becomes a framework for exploring the uneasy intertidal zone between childhood and adult maturity.

Ten years ago her adoptive mother, Lindy, found Summer, now 12, alone on the beach. Their tight bond is tested when Lindy invites her boyfriend to move into their oceanfront home, causing Summer to passively resist the new normal. A reckless, solo swim triggers Summer’s vivid dream about a strange girl: Tink, another out-of-sorts adolescent. Observing grown-up thrills and heartaches from the child side of the divide, Tink feels abandoned by her older sister and disgusted at how her friends have coupled up. When a second dream follows a kayak spill, Summer recognizes that seawater prompts them and actively seeks them. Like Tink, she feels pushed out. Heightening Summer’s dislocation is the desire to know her own story—who left her on the beach? Why? The discovery that her detailed dreams reflect actual places and events prompts her to seek more. Awkwardly straddling fantasy and realism, plot twists don’t always persuade. How adoptees relate to their origins merits more thoughtful treatment. However, Summer and Tink are compelling, the unsettling surges of adolescence tugging at each enhanced by the evocative ocean setting and imagery. Characters default to white.

How preteen girls negotiate this supremely trying life passage is explored in some of the year’s best middle-grade releases; add this to the list. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-2012-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more