Likely to be lost in the crowd, but comfy antics for readers who don't probably much like reading—which, one thinks, is...

WONKENSTEIN

From the Creature from My Closet series , Vol. 1

Skye adds another Wimpy Kid to the growing bandwagon.

Sounding almost too nerdy to be true ("I'm kind of like a backup singer in the song of life"), 12-year-old Rob relates his tale in the now-requisite mix of block-print–type prose and line-drawn cartoon figures with punch lines or commentary in dialogue balloons. A string of hectic events follows the appearance of a manic mannequin from the midden of books and old science projects in his closet. He describes it as "a small, weird man who came up to just above my waist. He looked like two different people who had been smashed together." Comical chases, pranks, interactions with friends dependable and otherwise, mortifying mishaps in front of girls and like standard fare later, Rob has overcome severe stage fright to mend fences with classmate Janae and others by reciting a poem of apology at a school talent show. He has also been turned on to books by his discovery that the mannequin is an amalgam of Willy Wonka and Frankenstein's monster. In the end, Wonkenstein slips back into the closet—and out springs an even smaller Harry Potter/Chewbacca blend. Sequels, anyone?

Likely to be lost in the crowd, but comfy antics for readers who don't probably much like reading—which, one thinks, is exactly the point. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9268-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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