A SLIP OF A GIRL

Young Anna narrates in lilting, free verse her trials, tribulations, and triumphs during the 1881 Land War in Drumlish, Ireland.

“Sounds,” the first of 31 short chapters in the book’s first section, starts with high drama. While outside pulling up chickweed for tea, Anna hears screams and a crashing sound. “Dust rises up: / the house of five girls / and a mam is gone. / They’re forced out on the road, / maybe to starve.” Readers soon learn that English aristocrats have seized Irish properties, feeling empowered to arbitrarily raise rents and raze dwellings. However, what compels further reading is an immediate bond with Anna. Giff has the rare gift of using few words—but exactly the right ones—to evoke strong and varied images and feelings. Readers will be riveted as Anna tries her hardest to live up to her dying mam’s requests: that Anna take care of her developmentally disabled little sister, Nuala; keep the family’s home safe; and learn to read. There are several episodes of gripping suspense, including Anna and Nuala’s fugitive flight to Aunt Ethna’s house and encounters between a bailiff and a justifiably angry crowd. There are also tender and humorous moments. Traditional customs and language are woven into the tale as deftly as Aunt Ethna weaves at her loom. Despite the value attached to reading, it is a different skill that enables Anna to earn money—a welcome, realistic plot point. Characters all present white.

Lovely. (glossary, photographs, author’s note) (Historical verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3955-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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