Exceptionally graceful and delightful.

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After witnessing a brutal attack against his art teacher, young Manuel Soto struggles to cope with the trauma and anxiety that shadow him.

Bouts of panic attacks and moments of disassociation afflict Manuel, especially when reminders of the attack crop up unexpectedly. To manage these flashes of great unease, he uses his love of and skills in photography to anchor and ground himself. One day, he’s paired with Sebastian and Caysha, a couple of classmates, for a school project. As Manuel becomes fast friends with them, he learns more about his newfound friends’ plans to participate in the summer county fair. Spending time on Sebastian’s family’s cattle farm outside of town, as well as with Sebastian’s newborn calf, Manuel finds the space and quiet he needs to experience relief and engage in reflection. Slowly, he begins to open up to his friends about his trauma, joining in with their joyful preparations for the fair (Caysha’s fancy chickens are a hoot) and forging a deeper, more affectionate relationship with Sebastian in particular. Employing artwork that expresses sobering realism with hints of softly colorful catharsis, Smith provides a compassionate, gentle look at a young boy in the grip of PTSD and his hard-won path to recovery. Lightness lingers among the tightly paced, evenly formed panels, broken only by the dynamic, sometimes slanted, lines used to characterize Manuel’s panic attacks. Strong, good-natured characters and an endearing representation of young queer love round out a mighty sweet tale. Manuel is cued as Latinx; Sebastian reads as White and Caysha as Black.

Exceptionally graceful and delightful. (author’s note, resources, concept art) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-54033-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong.


Ravani Foster and the whole town of Slaughterville are changed by the arrival of seven unusual children.

Skinny, lonely Ravani is the only one who sees the children arrive and move into the house across the street, and he soon finds a comrade in tough, golden-haired Virginia. Despite the local newspaper owner’s assertion that Slaughterville is not the kind of town where exciting things happen, Ravani’s life changes dramatically as Virginia and her chosen family of parentless kids calling themselves the Ragabonds let him in on their secret: They are on the run. When vicious bully Donnie learns that the Ragabonds are being pursued, he blackmails Ravani, who is desperate to protect them and equally desperate for Virginia, his first friend, to stay. She introduces him to the quietly revolutionary idea that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. The omniscient narrative voice is a strong presence throughout, drawing readers’ attention to themes including choices that make a difference, connections between people (“Sometimes, when two souls find each other in the darkness, the darkness goes away”), deciding who you want to be and not letting others define you, and the importance of home and family. Brief chapters from the perspective of the man hunting the Ragabonds ratchet up the suspense, culminating in an exciting sequence of events followed by a heartwarming ending. All main characters are coded White.

A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-19672-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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