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LAST MEETING OF THE GORILLA CLUB

Strange and genuinely introspective.

What happens when invisible friends won’t leave you alone?

It’s three weeks into the school year, and Josh Duncan is prepared for his first day of fifth grade after his family’s move, armed with his inhaler and a new raincoat for the perpetually wet Pacific Northwest weather. Josh tells himself it won’t be like the first day of kindergarten, when he got an awkward nickname and saw Big Brother for the first time. Yet Big Brother is there, speaking in Josh’s ear despite the distance from his old backyard, where his parents made him bury a rock with Big Brother’s name on it. Meanwhile, Lucas Hernandez isn’t sure what’s up with the new kid, but he’s dealing with his own recently reappeared apparition: Maxie Moon. If Lucas does this one thing for Maxie, she tells him, she’ll leave him alone for good. Lucas’ name and some casually dropped Spanish signals his distinction from his assumed-white classmates, and Josh, who is white, displays symptoms of social anxiety. Blurring the line between imaginary friends and ghosts, Nickerson creates an atmospheric narrative that turns typically mundane activities, like riding a bike around the neighborhood, into existential ponderings on borderlines and time. Readers can dive in and get lost in ambiguous, creepy elements that will prepare them for the horror of Stephen King.

Strange and genuinely introspective. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99442-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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GHOSTS

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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