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A SEASON OF GIFTS

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 3

According to 12-year-old Bob, “We Barnharts had moved in next door to a haunted house, if a house can be haunted by a living being.” Bob’s first encounter with its owner, Mrs. Dowdel, is inauspicious, as she discovers Bob strung up naked in a spider’s web of fishing line inside her privy. But Mrs. Dowdel offers the gift of friendship to Bob’s six-year-old sister Ruth Ann, and by the end of this 1958 Christmas season, each of the Barnharts will have been touched by gifts she has given. Peck’s challenge in his third Grandma Dowdel novel—Mrs. Dowdel now—is how to make the redoubtable lady the central character when she’s the next-door neighbor. He succeeds admirably, bringing to life each of the five Barnharts and subtly infusing their lives with the presence of their remarkable neighbor. Pitch-perfect prose, laced with humor and poignancy, strong characterization and a clear development of the theme of gifts one person can offer make this one of Peck’s best novels yet—and that’s saying something. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3082-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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