THE STAR OUTSIDE MY WINDOW

A game of hide-and-seek ends with London siblings in foster care.

Ten-year-old Aniyah hasn’t spoken since arriving at the Oxford home of her new foster mother, Mrs. Iwuchukwu, along with her 5-year-old brother, Noah, following the death of their mother. It all started with another of Mum’s “games,” this time hiding from Dad in a shelter, or “hotel-that-wasn’t-really-a-hotel.” Aniyah calls herself a star hunter and believes Mum is now watching over them as a star, so after hearing about a recently located star passing close to Earth and the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s competition to name it, Aniyah wants to ensure the scientists will accurately recognize it as her Mum, Isabella. With help from her foster siblings and her firm commitment to her mother, Aniyah begins to plot. Along the way, Aniyah’s history emerges, revealing that the paternal abuse she thought was simply normal life was in fact not normal at all and had everything to do with Mum’s death. This deeply moving narrative tackles the lasting traumatic impact of abuse on children and the troubling ways society denies victims’ experiences until it’s too late. Raúf, founder of the anti-trafficking and abuse nonprofit Making Herstory, brings to life an age-appropriate narrative about painful topics, giving her characters power and agency in weaving together their stories of survival. Extensive backmatter offers context and resources. Aniyah and Noah’s mother was from Brazil, and her father is English; there is diversity among the rest of the cast.

Empowering. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30227-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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