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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Part coming-of-age story and part exposé of Duterte’s problematic policies, this powerful and courageous story offers...

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PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING

Seventeen-year-old Jay Reguero searches for the truth about his cousin’s death amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs while on an epic trip back to his native Philippines.

Shocked out of his senioritis slumber when his beloved cousin Jun is killed by the police in the Philippines for presumably using drugs, Jay makes a radical move to spend his spring break in the Philippines to find out the whole story. Once pen pals, Jay hasn’t corresponded with Jun in years and is wracked by guilt at ghosting his cousin. A mixed heritage (his mother is white) Filipino immigrant who grew up in suburban Michigan, Jay’s connection to current-day Philippines has dulled from assimilation. His internal tensions around culture, identity, and languages—as “a spoiled American”—are realistic. Told through a mix of first-person narration, Jun’s letters to Jay, and believable dialogue among a strong, full cast of characters, the result is a deeply emotional story about family ties, addiction, and the complexity of truth. The tender relationship between Jay and Jun is especially notable—as is the underlying commentary about the challenges and nuances between young men and their uncles, fathers, male friends, and male cousins.

Part coming-of-age story and part exposé of Duterte’s problematic policies, this powerful and courageous story offers readers a refreshingly emotional depiction of a young man of color with an earnest desire for the truth. (author’s note, recommended reading) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55491-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read.

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PUNCHING THE AIR

Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day.

Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He’s an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America’s investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry’s power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here?

Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299648-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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