This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere.

FLY ON THE WALL

Some things you must learn on your own.

In this graphic/prose hybrid, Henry Khoo embarks on a secret mission. Now that he’s 12, the legal age to travel alone, he has plans to fly from his Australian home to Singapore, where his father lives. As he haphazardly navigates his way to his flight, his tangled motivations slowly unfold. Initially it appears he wants to establish his independence, seeking reprieve from the overbearing eyes of older sister Jie, Mama, and wuxia drama–watching Popo. Soon the comedic narration reveals that Henry is confronting myriad issues: his emotionally and geographically distant father; his waning relationship with his best friend; and his need to hide his secret identity as the creator of the Fly on the Wall website. Spawned from Henry’s sense that he’s invisible to all, his online comics illustrate school gossip—and draw the opprobrium of the school administration. As in Lai’s debut, Pie in the Sky (2019), humorous line drawings punctuate the text and reveal Henry’s inner feelings. Flashbacks deftly illuminate Henry’s emotional journey to a wider worldview and eventual ownership of his feelings. Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. Henry and his family are Chinese, and dialogue is occasionally bilingual.

This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31411-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart.

POSITIVELY IZZY

This reader-friendly graphic/prose hybrid explores the lives of two very different girls who have an unexpected connection.

Izzy and Brianna both, separately, navigate difficult middle school experiences. Brianna, whose story is told entirely in sequential panels, is studious, reserved, and a little lonely. Izzy, who tells her story in paragraphs broken up by illustrations, is an unreliable middle sister with a love for performance and a lot of indifference toward schoolwork. Izzy sneaks out against her mother’s wishes to perform in the school talent show, while Bri’s mother (also a teacher at her school) convinces her to fill in for a sick actor. Both girls juggle complex family dynamics, shifting friend groups, and boys in the hours leading up to their performances. The story is light but resonant for middle graders, with constant comedic asides in the illustrations. Both girls appear white (based on the color cover), with multiracial supporting casts, and both threads of the story skirt larger issues. The opening pages, in which Bri complains about labels, hint at a larger theme that recedes into the background as the two girls struggle with their interpersonal relationships. Readers primed by the back-cover blurb will spend the whole book waiting for the two stories to intersect, with a surprise reveal at the end that may call for an immediate reread.

A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-248497-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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