Families are complicated, but gardening usually isn’t.

THE VEGETABLE MUSEUM

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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Superb storytelling.

FRANKIE & BUG

When Bug’s traditional summer routine is shaken up, her entire life changes.

It’s 1987, and 10-year-old Beatrice “Bug” Contreras has a plan: spend her summer months with her brother, Danny, on Venice Beach as she has for the past two years. But when 14-year-old Danny—who has matured into the name Daniel—wants more time to himself, Bug learns she will be instead hanging out with 11-year-old Frankie, the nephew of Phillip, her mother’s best friend and their upstairs neighbor. Frankie, who is visiting from Ohio, is trans at a time before this identity was well understood and has not been treated with kindness or acceptance by his parents. Frankie and Bug become fascinated with trying to solve the case of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been striking in the area. When Phillip is attacked, ending up in the hospital, their investigation swivels, and the titular characters uncover a few untold family tales. Bug and Daniel’s late father was a professor from El Salvador with Indigenous ancestry who spoke Nahuatl as well as Spanish and English. Biracial identity is explored in part through the differences in the siblings’ physical appearances: Their mother is implied to be White, and Daniel—who resembles their father more than Bug does—experiences more overt racism and dives into an exploration of his Salvadoran heritage. Readers interested in complex emotional development and relationships will appreciate each character's subtle nuances.

Superb storytelling. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8253-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS

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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