Heartfelt and heartwarming, highlighting the power of story to both conceal and reveal

SINCERELY, HARRIET

Searle writes and illustrates her first graphic novel for middle-grade readers.

Whiling away the long summer days alone in a new apartment in a new city, Harriet “Harry” Flores begins to spin stories. Perhaps the nice mail carrier has nefarious intentions for the neighborhood dogs. Maybe the house is haunted. The old woman who lives downstairs? Probably a murderer. Though her tales frustrate her parents, the escapism this storytelling offers seems to comfort Harry as she faces an uncertain future with a chronic illness. Begrudgingly, Harry begins to spend time with Pearl, the mysterious old woman from downstairs. Through that budding relationship, and the memories and books they share, Harry finds the courage to be honest with her parents and to face what lies ahead. The subtle absence of cellphones and computers as well as pop-culture references place the story in the 1990s, yet it feels incredibly current. The pacing is masterful as the truth behind Harry’s many fears is slowly and poignantly revealed, maintaining the tension and mystery of each story thread until the tapestry is complete. Searle tackles Harry’s anxiety about her illness as well as common adolescent concerns about friendships, school, and family with an honesty and tenderness that will resonate with readers. Harriet’s biracial: Her mother is white while her father is Mexican; Pearl is black.

Heartfelt and heartwarming, highlighting the power of story to both conceal and reveal . (Graphic historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4529-8

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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