A beautiful conservation story told in a rich setting and peopled with memorable characters.

MUSIC FOR TIGERS

Unlike the rest of her nature-obsessed family, Louisa wants to be a musician, not a biologist.

But when Louisa’s mother finds out that the Australian government is about to destroy the Tasmanian rainforest camp their family has managed for decades, she insists that Louisa leave Toronto and spend the summer on the strange, small island with her even stranger uncle Ruff. But when Uncle Ruff gives Louisa a copy of her great-grandmother’s journal, Louisa becomes fascinated with her family’s history of secretly protecting endangered species, including the mysterious Tasmanian tiger, widely regarded as extinct. With the help of her new friend and neighbor Colin—a boy who has autism spectrum disorder—Louisa deepens her connection with her family’s land, with history, and with her love of music. Kadarusman masterfully creates a lush, magical world where issues associated with conservation, neurodiversity, and history intersect in surprising and authentic ways. The book’s small cast of characters (principals seem all White) is well drawn and endearing. Crucially, the author acknowledges the original, Indigenous inhabitants of the land as experts, something rarely seen in books about environmental degradation. Louisa’s narratorial voice strikes the right balance of curiosity, timidity, and growing confidence, and her character’s transformation feels both incredibly natural and incredibly rewarding to behold.

A beautiful conservation story told in a rich setting and peopled with memorable characters. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77278-054-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her...

LIKE VANESSA

In pursuit of her dreams, Vanessa becomes an unlikely contestant in her middle school’s first-ever pageant.

African-American eighth-grader Vanessa Martin is glued to the TV when Vanessa Williams is crowned the first black Miss America in 1983. Inspired, Vanessa imagines her own dreams coming true. Maybe she can rise above her painful family problems and dissatisfaction with her dark skin. Maybe she can escape her gang- and drug-plagued neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. But when the new music teacher, Mrs. Walton, who is white, encourages Vanessa to audition for the school’s first-ever pageant, she declines. She has an extraordinary singing voice but lacks the confidence to compete. When Mrs. Walton, Vanessa’s grandpa Pop Pop, and her cousin TJ join forces to get her to try out, she must face her fears—and the neighborhood mean girl—to have a shot at realizing her dreams. Vanessa’s compelling story unfolds through a combination of first-person narrative, diary entries, and well-crafted poems that perfectly capture the teen voice and perspective. From the first page, readers are drawn into Vanessa’s world, a place of poverty, abandonment, and secrets—and abiding love and care. The soundscape of early rap music helps bring the ’80s to life and amplifies Vanessa’s concerns about racism, friendship, family, and her future. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will cheer Vanessa on and see themselves in her story.

This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her circumstances. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58089-777-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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