A thoughtful exploration of the soul-fulfilling heaviness of life in black urban communities.

DOUGH BOYS

The companion to So Done (2018) focuses its lens on the complicated friendship between Simp and Rollie as they strive to make their mark despite the threatening pressures of their surroundings.

Deontae “Simp” Wright and Roland “Rollie” Matthews came up together between the rec center and the basketball courts of their Pirates Cove neighborhood. It’s always been a breeze, kickin’ it and preparing to rep the Cove on its legendary basketball team, the Marauders. Except now, they realize how complicated it is playing for the ’Rauders, as Coach Tez also expects them to take up other responsibilities, like playing lookout for Tez’s investments in the local drug game. For Simp, this come-up represents where he needs to be, because he’s 13 and has to help take care of his brothers while his mother constantly works to stay afloat. On the other hand, Rollie feels torn between being there for his homeboy Simp and stepping away from the burdens of being a ’Rauder in favor of his growing obsession for playing the drums. What will he do when music teacher Mr. B presents him with an opportunity of a lifetime? As in her previous book, Chase displays her signature flair for conveying black youths’ language of intimacy even as she refuses the inaccurate yet popular theory that complex ethical entanglements cannot be engaged in middle-grade fiction.

A thoughtful exploration of the soul-fulfilling heaviness of life in black urban communities. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269181-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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