Touching despite contrivances, and readers will find themselves rooting for Clark, Les, and Ricki.

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REVENGE OF THE STAR SURVIVORS

Clark Sherman’s life is sent into upheaval after his dad’s promotion leads to a cross-country move he doesn’t want to make.

Rightfully so, as the moment the white boy arrives on his first day at Festus Middle School in early 2005, he encounters the first dose of bullying—which only gets worse. To make matters worse, the school counselor places him in eighth-grade remedial classes instead of advanced classes due to a foul-up in his computerized records. (For some reason, his parents aren’t included in that conversation.) Ostracized from Day 1, Clark’s one solace is his obsession with the TV show Star Survivors and all things Star Wars, which provide the sci-fi lens that he uses to navigate his daily life and that inform his quirkily stylized narration. Fate takes a hand when he meets white Les and Asian-American Ricki, both Star Survivors fans and both also targets of the rampant bullying at Festus, and the three new friends put their heads together to find a way to escape the daily terror. Merschel gamely attempts to address endemic bullying that’s facilitated by school administrations to protect favored students (in this case, athletes). The weak spot of this story lies in the very beginning, when the author unconvincingly removes Clark’s parents from active involvement, a plot-driven move that won’t ring true.

Touching despite contrivances, and readers will find themselves rooting for Clark, Les, and Ricki. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3667-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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