Beautiful, moody, sad, and spooky—all at once.

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THORNHILL

Decades after the tragedy at and closure of gothic Thornhill Institute, a new girl in town is drawn into its story.

The past storyline is told through white, orphaned Mary’s diary entries (dated in the early 1980s); white preteen Ella’s modern, voiceless story unfolds, Wonderstruck-like, in intercut, illustrated, wordless sequences (frames of which occasionally have text, such as newspaper clippings). Selectively mute Mary is a puppet-making, literature-loving outcast at Thornhill, her situation complicated by the return of her chief tormenter and the ringleader of the other girls, back from a failed foster placement. These are Thornhill’s last days, the girls being sent to new placements so the property can be developed. Stoic Mary thinks she just wants to be left alone, until a taste of irresistible friendship turns to cruelty. In the present, lonely Ella is intrigued by Thornhill, especially the girl she sometimes sees beyond the locked walls. She sneaks onto the grounds, finds puppets, and repairs them before returning them, striking up an odd, at-a-distance friendship with the mysterious girl—who, she realizes, is likely the dead girl from the orphanage’s past. The puppets and doll figures take a familiar creepy motif and make it a source of joy and comfort. The striking monochromatic art is atmospheric and emotional in an understated way that gives it more power rather than less. It’s capped by an ambiguous climax and chilling denouement.

Beautiful, moody, sad, and spooky—all at once. (Horror/graphic hybrid. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-654-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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  • Newbery Medal Winner

  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER

A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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