A positive but not blandly idealized portrayal of challenges displaced people face.

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AZZI IN BETWEEN

Though given a British setting, this sensitive tale of a young war refugee slowly adapting to a new life will strike chords of sympathy and recognition almost anywhere.

A hasty nighttime departure with her parents leads to a long ride in a motor launch crowded with other refugees. In “the new country,” Azzi finds herself living with her parents in a one-room flat, going to a school where she doesn’t speak the language and pining for her left-behind grandmother. Her feelings of isolation are soon eased by Sabeen, an adult classroom helper who speaks her language and teaches her English phrases, and Lucy, a friendly classmate. Azzi in turn helps her parents settle in by sharing newly learned words and also by planting a handful of the beans her father had brought in her class’ summer garden. In time, her father receives a work permit that allows a move to a small house, and, joy of joys, her grandmother arrives to reunite the family. In Garland’s sequential panels, Azzi’s subdued emotional landscape is clearly mapped in her body language, occasional tears and sweet smile. Her city of origin is never specified, freeing the sharply felt anxiety and life-altering disruption she and her parents experience from particular locales or wars.

A positive but not blandly idealized portrayal of challenges displaced people face. (Graphic picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-84780-261-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...

ADA LACE, ON THE CASE

From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.

DR. FELL AND THE PLAYGROUND OF DOOM

Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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