With careful guidance, a potentially useful resource.

50 ADVENTURES TO HAVE BEFORE YOU TURN 14

Originally published in Italy, this DIY adventure book features 50 activities, one per chapter, as a sort of bucket list of challenges for a pre–14-year-old.

Each chapter introduces a new adventure and accompanying instructions. The adventures don’t seem to be in any particular order, and many of the activities presented are to be had outdoors. Each chapter ends with a “Mission Accomplished” template that is to be completed with details summarizing the adventure. Many activities presented are dubious or even exclusionary, starting with the adventure that instructs kids to sleep in a scary place that must be “really special and dangerous,” like “a nearby forest.” Adventure No. 20 suggests photographing three wild animals (a deer, a bear, and a fox pose in Ferrari’s illustration), while another, searching for mushrooms, mentions that many are edible but not that any are lethal. There are even instructions on stalking a fellow human, illustrated by a picture of a girl who is being followed by a hidden stalker. Still, many activities are kid-friendly, and the book can act as a handy anti-boredom tool. Although the book is definitely geared toward young people who have ready access to substantial swaths of outdoors, some, such as baking bread or writing a story or letter, should be accessible to most children.

With careful guidance, a potentially useful resource. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7155-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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It may take readers a few rounds to fully appreciate and understand the loose, unassumingly sophisticated narrative that...

OVERHEARD IN A TOWER BLOCK

POEMS

This slim volume of more than four dozen poems of varying lengths charts the narrator’s course from childhood in low-income urban housing to adolescence to young adulthood and fatherhood.

The unnamed narrator personifies the unforgiving public-housing tower block as a “zombie” hungry for human lives and memories. He dodges a bully in “Smashing Snails in the Rain” and overhears an “Argument”: “The monster / With a roar made up of shouts,” whose “jaws snap / Like slamming doors” and whose “claws clatter / Like kitchen drawers.” His father gives him the perfect pair of red sneakers in “Trainers.” These shoes return many times across the collection, acting as a possible symbol of the boy’s hero worship of his often absent father. As the boy enters his teens, he goes from confident to awkward to embracing the changes his body experiences in “Man…I Had It Made.” In later poems, he has his first kiss, gets exam results, and leaves home for the first time. He becomes a father, “whose heart thumps solely for his / daughter.” Poetic forms vary, with some rhyming and others not. Readers may have difficulty understanding the trilogy of sophisticated poems based on the myth of Prometheus. Race is not mentioned, and the flat, unemotional black-and-white sketches provide few clues.

It may take readers a few rounds to fully appreciate and understand the loose, unassumingly sophisticated narrative that joins the poems. (Poetry. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-91095-958-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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