A boy-turned-dinosaur excavates gratitude and humility in this appealing kids’ book.

THE WISHING STAR

In Salter’s debut children’s book, after a young boy doesn’t get what he wants for his birthday, he impulsively makes a wish that comes true.

Robbie is used to getting a “big gift”for his birthday, and this year he wantsan expensive mountain bike, but his father tells him they can’t afford it because he was laid off. On the eve of his 10th birthday, a whining Robbie sits in his room and flings his other gifts on the floor. He studies his poster of a menacing T. Rex, saying, “I bet you never begged for anything. You always got what you wanted.” At that moment, he looks out his window to see a falling star. The next morning, his father receives a call that he’s been rehired—and Robbie is overjoyed because he knows he’ll get his bike. He does, but on his first spin, he hits a log, blacks out and comes to only to find he’s become an apatosaurus. What’s more, Robbie can talk, as can Bronella, an adult apatosaurus who finds Robbie and helps him adjust to his new life. Robbie yearns for his life as a boy and realizes how much he took for granted: being with his loving parents and friends and devouring a regular diet of hamburgers and corn instead of hundreds of pounds of soggy swamp plants and berries. He spends his days foraging for food, hanging out with other talking dinosaurs and learning how to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying tyrannosaur named Tyra, who lives nearby. The story turns when Tyra kills his friend Ana. Robbie concocts a plan to defeat her—which includes him acting as bait. Unfortunately, the description of the plan and construction of the trap goes on too long, breaking the story’s steady pace. Besides, readers may feel let down: Just when Tyra’s fate is about to be revealed, the story takes a jarring leap, and the critical moment is skipped over. Still, the story’s ending holds an intriguing twist, with a sequel on the horizon. With the lovely, detailed black-and-white illustrations accompanying the text, Salter does a fair job of working in the tricky business of anthropomorphism (the otherwise lifelike creatures show plenty of emotion on their faces). Also included is a helpful glossary of various types of dinosaurs.

A boy-turned-dinosaur excavates gratitude and humility in this appealing kids’ book.

Pub Date: March 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491728628

Page Count: 130

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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