A quiet, philosophical story for thoughtful readers

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN ME AND THE CHERRY TREE

As she struggles with vision loss, Mafalda takes stock of her gains in this Italian import and debut.

Without her glasses, fifth grader Mafalda sees the world as a mist, a complication of her Stargardt disease, a rare form of macular degeneration. Because the mist will eventually turn into darkness, she keeps a list of “Things I care a lot about (but I won’t be able to do anymore).” In lyrical prose ably translated by Muir, Peretti, who also has Stargardt disease, takes readers through Mafalda’s school year as the preteen tracks the progression of her disease by crossing off the activities she can no longer perform and the decreasing number of steps it takes to reach the schoolyard cherry tree from when she can first see it. Many chapters end with a pleading to Cosimo, the protagonist of Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees, for help. Young readers unfamiliar with this work will still understand Mafalda’s prayerlike requests to this spirited boy who chose to live among the trees and her own decision to live in the cherry tree. The sorrow of imminent darkness is tempered, however, by the girl’s friendships with the school custodian, a Romanian immigrant, and schoolmate Filippo, who lives with his single mother. Both experience their own losses and help Mafalda realize that life goes on with unexpected joys. A minor character is Indian; others are assumed to be white Europeans.

A quiet, philosophical story for thoughtful readers . (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3962-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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