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PAINTING THE GAME

Quietly joyful and triumphant.

This posthumously published final novel from the Newbery-winning author follows a young girl determined to master throwing a knuckleball.

A knuckleball—11-year-old Lucy Chance’s father’s signature pitch—can dip and weave like magic. “You let it fly,” says Lucy’s dad, a pitcher for the minor league Salem Red Sox. Writing in her signature spare, impressionistic prose, MacLachlan conjures up a similar magic, surrounding Lucy with a tightknit cast of loving, supportive characters. Lucy’s father hopes to move up to the major leagues and encourages her passion for the sport. Her perceptive mother, a painter, draws parallels between Lucy’s father’s love of baseball and her own artistic talents (“Think of him trying to paint the game. Like me painting a picture”), while Edgar Vazquez, her father’s best friend and a catcher for the Sox, is a steady, calming presence. Lucy’s best friends and baseball teammates, cousins Robin and Tex, help her secretly practice her knuckleball. Though the novel is light on plot, it nevertheless immerses readers in Lucy’s world, capturing characters’ seemingly small but deeply meaningful victories: a successful game for Lucy, a beautiful sketch drawn by her mother, words of praise from a major league scout who’s observed her father. Everyone wins in this gentle, low-key sports story. Physical descriptions of characters are minimal; Edgar mentions growing up in Puerto Rico.

Quietly joyful and triumphant. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781534499942

Page Count: 144

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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WRECKING BALL

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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