A satisfying baseball story that never minimizes the challenges of autism but celebrates skill, determination, and love for...

GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN!

Eleven-year-old Vivian Jane Cohen has autism but she also throws a mean knuckleball and yearns to play baseball.

Vivy first learned of the knuckleball three years ago, at an autism event where then–minor league pitcher VJ Capello showed her how to hold the ball the right way, but she mastered it on her own. Now a coach has seen her throwing to her older brother, Nate, and invited her to join his team. Although she initially begins writing to VJ to fulfill a school assignment, little expecting a reply, magically, he begins to write back. This vivid epistolary tale captures Vivy’s growing sense of her own capabilities as she discovers that she can mostly hold her own on a boys’ team, even though she has to deal with cruel bullying from the coach’s obnoxious son. It helps that her catcher, Alex, accepts her fully and offers warm, believable encouragement as she finds ways to push back against her overprotective mother’s smothering management. Just as helpful are VJ’s insights on pitching, bullying, and life in general as he struggles with his own uncertainties. Vivy, Nate, and their parents are white and Jewish. VJ is black and Alex, Mexican American, offering opportunities for reflection on discrimination’s many facets, while in a subplot, Nate comes out as gay to their accepting parents.

A satisfying baseball story that never minimizes the challenges of autism but celebrates skill, determination, and love for the game. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55418-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

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. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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