Beleaguered tolerance strikes out; loud, proud love wins the game.


A gay black baseball player posthumously inspires a sixth grade white boy who is ready-ish to come out.

Baseball enthusiast Silas Wade opens the book by giving a colorful class presentation about Glenn Burke. Burke was a once-well-known major league player who invented the high-five and eventually left the sport after enduring isolation and harassment for being gay. Silas leaves that last part out, but heralding his hero in front of a crowd is the silent start of his own coming out. Further testing the waters, he tells his best friend, Zoey (a champion robot builder), he’s gay and finds that there’s a bouncy kind of freedom that comes from saying who he really is. Inspirational YouTube videos encourage Silas to come out to Coach Webb, an adult who embodies the understanding, guidance, protection, and encouragement that all queer kids should have. But when Silas gets nervous about everything changing and wants to backpedal into the closet, circumstances put him at a crossroads: continue to lie for self-preservation or live out loud like Glenn Burke wasn’t able to. Silas is white, but Zoey has a Spanish surname, and his baseball teammates and one coach are black and brown. (One notable moment includes an explanation from the coaches about why monkey insults are racist.) As the narrative foundation is established, there are overt explanations of settings and characters that aren’t additive, but these superfluous tendencies dissolve about 50 pages in. Insights into Silas’ home life feel bittersweet and real with parents fumbling to do the best they can, but Silas’ struggle is the central story. 

Beleaguered tolerance strikes out; loud, proud love wins the game. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31273-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.


The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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