A moving and memorable glimpse into one endearing middle schooler’s life.

MIDDLETOWN

Teenage sisters lie in order to stay together while their mom is in rehab.

Thirteen-year-old Eli and her 17-year-old sister, Anna, are used to taking care of and covering for their alcoholic mom. After being caught driving while drunk, their mom is sent to rehab, and Anna pretends to be their Aunt Lisa so they won’t get put in foster care. At first, life continues as normal. Eli goes to school and hangs out with her best friends, Javi, the only other gay kid in school, and Meena, her secret crush. Her friends don’t know about Eli’s home life. When money starts to run out and their lie begins to unravel, Eli and Anna have to come up with a new plan. As they discover more about their family, they also learn how to be honest with and accept help from others. Soft-hearted, lovable Eli drives this slice-of-life, coming-of-age story. Alcoholism, queerness, and gender identity and expression (Eli thinks of herself as “not quite a girl”) are all deftly broached, but this is primarily a story of one kid being herself and doing the best she can. The story is never preachy, and there aren’t always easy answers or explanations. Sweet, sad, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful, it features authentic characters navigating life’s complexities, big and small. Eli and family are implied White; Javi is Puerto Rican, and Meena is Indian American.

A moving and memorable glimpse into one endearing middle schooler’s life. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64614-042-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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