LORD OF THE MOUNTAIN

With the birth of country music as his backdrop, a boy searches for music’s place in his troubled family.

Thirteen-year-old Nate Owen’s father, pastor of the Church of Consecrated Heaven and Satan’s on the Run (located in a tent on the empty lot next door), preaches relentlessly that music is a sin. Nate can’t understand why. There’s plenty of music in the Bible. Nate’s family has been broken since Nate’s sister died when Nate was only 2, and Nate wants out. It’s 1927. Nate lives in the divided town of Bristol, which straddles the Tennessee/Virginia state line. That summer a man from Victor Records comes to record mountain music for the very first time. Nate, captivated, can’t keep away. Gradually, and believably, he becomes friends with and then an employee of the soon-to-be-famous Carter family, musicians from nearby Scott County. The Carters and the fictional characters are white, but Lesley Riddle, a real black man who helped A.P. Carter find songs, makes an important contribution, helping readers understand that while Bristol’s downtown sign read “A Good Place to Live,” that was true only for white residents. Nate tells the story in retrospect, so his voice often reads older than 13, and sometimes Kidd can’t resist throwing in a bit too much of his research, but the real history melds seamlessly with Nate’s family story, and the emotions ring true through the hopeful but bittersweet end.

A solid, worthwhile read. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4751-9

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story.

SWIM TEAM

Leaving Brooklyn behind, Black math-whiz and puzzle lover Bree starts a new life in Florida, where she’ll be tossed into the deep end in more ways than one. Keeping her head above water may be the trickiest puzzle yet.

While her dad is busy working and training in IT, Bree struggles at first to settle into Enith Brigitha Middle School, largely due to the school’s preoccupation with swimming—from the accomplishments of its namesake, a Black Olympian from Curaçao, to its near victory at the state swimming championships. But Bree can’t swim. To illustrate her anxiety around this fact, the graphic novel’s bright colors give way to gray thought bubbles with thick, darkened outlines expressing Bree’s deepest fears and doubts. This poignant visual crowds some panels just as anxious feelings can crowd the thoughts of otherwise star students like Bree. Ultimately, learning to swim turns out to be easy enough with the help of a kind older neighbor—a Black woman with a competitive swimming past of her own as well as a rich and bittersweet understanding of Black Americans’ relationship with swimming—who explains to Bree how racist obstacles of the past can become collective anxiety in the present. To her surprise, Bree, with her newfound water skills, eventually finds herself on the school’s swim team, navigating competition, her anxiety, and new, meaningful relationships.

Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-305677-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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