This meditative #ownvoices read refreshingly treats chronic illness as just one of life’s myriad complexities.

ITCH

Isaac faces so many complications in sixth grade: bullying, loneliness, guilt, his mother’s two-month business trip, tornadoes—and the itch.

Isaac’s been trying to fit in since moving from New York State to rural Ohio. He’s learned about football, for, despite his engineer parents’ sports apathy, the Ohio State Buckeyes are a religion around this (seemingly predominantly white) town. Isaac even lets his classmates call him Itch, the nickname he earned because of his chronic condition. Isaac has what he calls “the itch” and what the doctors call “idiopathic angioedema.” Sometimes, for no apparent reason, Isaac gets an uncontrollable itch and swells up with massive hives, making his hands “look like raw hamburger meat.” Of course, Isaac’s not the only kid in sixth grade with health troubles. His best friend has life-threatening food allergies, and so does the weird new kid; both need EpiPens. A deft touch with unusual details keeps the narrative from getting bogged down in medical drama: Isaac has an after-school job at a pheasant farm, a preoccupation with the texture of sandwiches, and a lucky peanut shell. Lyrical, pensive prose unexpectedly isn’t a harbinger of tragedy; these kids have regular lives, shaped by their grave health concerns but not overwhelmed by them.

This meditative #ownvoices read refreshingly treats chronic illness as just one of life’s myriad complexities. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4552-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

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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Energizing and compassionate.

OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH

An aspiring transgender Junior Olympian swimmer finds the strength and pride in his identity to race toward his dreams in this debut coming-of-age novel by groundbreaking trans athlete Bailar.

Starting over after his abusive and discriminatory swim coach excluded him from the team, Obie Chang, a biracial (White/Korean) transgender boy worries about catching up to the other boys and proving that he is “man enough.” Although his family supports him, one of his best friends at school and the pool has turned into his biggest bully, and the other is drifting away toward the mean, popular girls. As he dives from the blocks into the challenging waters of seventh grade and swims toward his goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Obie discovers belonging in his community and in himself. Affirming adults—including his parents and grandparents, a new swim coach, and his favorite teacher—play significant supporting roles by offering encouragement without pressure, centering Obie’s feelings, and validating Obie’s right to set his own boundaries. Vulnerable first-person narration explores Obie’s internal conflict about standing up for himself and his desire to connect to his Korean heritage through his relationship with Halmoni, his paternal grandmother. A romance with Charlie, a cisgender biracial (Cuban/White) girl, is gentle and privacy-affirming. Short chapters and the steady pace of external tension balance moments of rumination, grounding them in the ongoing action of Obie’s experiences.

Energizing and compassionate. (author's note, resources, glossary) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37946-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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