Families are complicated, but gardening usually isn’t.



When Chloë and her father move from Montreal to Victoria, Chloë doesn’t think it will be for forever. After all, her whole life is back in Montreal.

Her mom, her best friend, and her city neighborhood are all waiting for her to return, so she doesn’t feel she needs to work too hard to settle into the new place. But she does want to learn more about her grandfather, Uli. Her dad and Uli don’t get along well, and no matter how many times Chloë asks to be told why, her dad always puts her off. But when she starts spending time with Uli in his garden, where he grows seeds that have been given to him by many different people, she wants to know even more. Perhaps best known for her nonfiction, Mulder carefully crafts a book about family and vegetables that offers a glimpse into the ways in which gardening can become something more than simply growing plants. The scenes of Chloë and her grandfather are poignant and realistic and might even spark some agricultural interest in middle-graders. But the rather slow-burning narrative sometimes gets bogged down with internal reflection, and the slow reveal of plot points can occasionally feel stagnant. However, the characters (who are mostly white, as a friendly Japanese-Canadian neighbor points out) are warm, and the concept of seed vaults is made wonderfully personal.

Families are complicated, but gardening usually isn’t. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1679-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.


On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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After Daniel’s experiences, readers will want to move there too.


The dull and seemingly ordinary neighborhood in which Daniel fetches up with his newly divorced mom turns out to be anything but.

Daniel’s first impressions of While-a-Way Lane aren’t good, as most of the neighbors are away for spring break, and he’s already in a dark, missing-his-dad mood. But then he spots his next-door neighbor, an older lady named Tilda Butter, apparently talking to the air. Had he looked a bit closer, he would have seen her actually in conversation with a small snake named Isadora. Tilda is very good at looking closer, and as her third-person chapters tend to be much longer than Daniel’s, it’s largely through her eyes and memories that readers will see the wonders of While-a-Way Lane, magical and otherwise, unfold. Wondrous things that happen to Daniel include an exciting encounter with squirrels in Tilda’s attic, landing a role as Lost Boy No. 8 in a school production of Peter Pan (his favorite book), and being followed home one evening by a cloud of fireflies. In Tilda’s view, everyone has a “gift” (hers happens to be talking to animals), and though on the surface Daniel remains rather unappealingly sullen and unobservant until near the end, he ultimately rewards her faith in a way that adds further buoyancy to the upbeat finish. Both Bean’s map and his chapter-head vignettes themselves reward closer looks. The cast defaults to white.

After Daniel’s experiences, readers will want to move there too. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62779-326-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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