Blue’s first-person voice is believable and her growth convincing in this satisfying family and friendship story—with a...

TRUE COLORS

In the summer of 1952, 10-year-old Blue finds that her “real mama” isn't the one who abandoned her when she was 2 days old, but the strong woman who raised her on a farm in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

Kinsey-Warnock returns to the world she has lovingly described earlier in such titles as From Dawn Till Dusk (2002). On Hannah’s old-fashioned farm, milking and haying are done by hand. Tourists at the nearby lake find farming tasks “relaxing,” but Blue and Hannah, now in her 70s, consider them plain hard work. The book opens with Blue waiting not only for her “real mother,” but also for the return of her best friend, a regular summer visitor named Nadine. But Nadine, nearly 12, has developed new interests and an unfamiliar mean streak. She even makes fun of Raleigh, a brain-damaged adult who does odd jobs around their supportive small town. Nadine’s family, which Blue had once envied, is falling apart. For Blue, the summer brings a new understanding of what it means to be family and an appreciation for her own life, as well as answers to some mysterious disappearances—both animals and people—and the development of a talent for writing.

Blue’s first-person voice is believable and her growth convincing in this satisfying family and friendship story—with a perfect cover to boot. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86099-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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