A quiet, elegant, poignant story suffused with humor, heart, and goodness.

THE POET'S DOG

An unusual dog rescues two children from a storm.

Teddy, an Irish wolfhound, has lived with Sylvan, a poet, in a rural cabin ever since his rescue from a shelter. Teddy learns human language, but Sylvan tells the dog only poets and children will understand when he speaks. When Sylvan sickens and dies, Teddy stays on at the cabin, and during a blizzard a few days later, Teddy finds two children, Flora, 8, and Nickel, 11, lost in the storm. (Oddly, the cover illustration shows the children as black-haired and brown-skinned, but in the text Nickel is described as having blond hair, implying whiteness.) Teddy leads the children to Sylvan’s cabin, where they make it a cozy shelter. The narrative interweaves Teddy’s remembrances of living with Sylvan with the present adventure. The three converse (Sylvan was right about that), and themes of being left and being rescued are explored as Teddy explains how Sylvan died and the children explain how they ended up alone outside in the blizzard. Thrumming throughout is the children’s unexpressed worry of what will happen to Teddy when their parents retrieve them. This is resolved in the best way possible and could, in the hands of a less refined writer, have become pat. MacLachlan’s treatment, however, is magical.

A quiet, elegant, poignant story suffused with humor, heart, and goodness. (Fantasy. 6-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229262-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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