Abdel-Fattah demonstrates a savvy understanding of the middle school experience in this keenly observed tale.

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THE FRIENDSHIP MATCHMAKER

From the Friendship Matchmaker series , Vol. 1

Seventh-grader Lara Zany’s reign as the self-appointed “Potts County Middle School official Friendship Matchmaker” is in peril.

Lara tackles her mission to aid the lonely with determination. Attempting to decipher the social nuances of middle school life, Lara busily compiles the “Friendship Matchmaker Manual,” a guide to help the friendless discover their perfect BFFs. However, readers soon realize that Lara the matchmaker mysteriously remains without close friends. When new student Emily defies the status quo by questioning Lara’s rigid rules of behavior, a friendship-matchmaking challenge ensues. As Emily and Lara endeavor to find BFFs for two friendless students, the reasons for Lara’s adamant rules—and her reluctance to have a BFF—are slowly revealed. Despite her aloof demeanor and exhaustive rules, Lara remains an amiable, sympathetic character. Her vulnerability and inherent kindness shine through, as when she defiantly defends students against the school bully. While the tale’s conclusion arrives rather abruptly, its encouraging message will appeal to readers.

Abdel-Fattah demonstrates a savvy understanding of the middle school experience in this keenly observed tale. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2832-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes.

COUNT ME IN

Seventh graders Karina Chopra and Chris Daniels live in Houston, Texas, and although they are next-door neighbors, they have different interests and their paths rarely cross.

In fact, Karina, whose family is Indian, doesn’t want to be friends with Chris, whose family is white, because the boys he hangs out with are mean to her. Things change when Karina’s immigrant paternal grandfather, Papa, moves in with Karina’s family. Papa begins tutoring Chris in math, and, as a result, Chris and Karina begin spending time with each other. Karina even comes to realize that Chris is not at all like the rest of his friends and that she should give him a second chance. One day, when Karina, Papa, and Chris are walking home from school, something terrible happens: They are assaulted by a stranger who calls Papa a Muslim terrorist, and he is badly injured. The children find themselves wanting to speak out for Papa and for other first-generation Americans like him. Narrated by Karina and Chris in alternate chapters, Bajaj’s novel gives readers varied and valuable perspectives of what it means to be first- and third-generation Indian Americans in an increasingly diverse nation. Unfortunately, however, Bajaj’s characters are quite bland, and the present-tense narrative voices of the preteen protagonists lack both distinction and authenticity.

The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51724-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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