A quiet, endearing protagonist achieves a dream unimagined by many children.

LITTLE BITS OF SKY

Miracle (who prefers the name Ira) tells her tale from October 1987 until June 1990—when she and younger brother Zac were foster children at Skilly House in London.

In a prologue, a now-adult Ira explains that the story comes from her diaries, then switches to a more childlike voice for the narrative proper. She calls her real name “embarrassing, especially for a care kid,” and throughout, she makes other references to her shame and her embarrassment about her status. After a series of stays with private families in London, she and Zac—at 7, two years her junior—have been driven to the children’s home by social worker Anita. Anita “dyes her hair to match her lipstick.…It takes our mind off things. Maybe that’s why she does it.” Ira’s many descriptions of places and people do not stop with her keen observations; she always editorializes about them. Readers who can tolerate this large amount of exposition will eventually be rewarded, as some of the details—such as Ira’s hasty misreadings of home manager Mrs. Clanks—result in fascinating revelations toward the end. Ira’s frequent use of the construction “me and Zac” jars against her general eloquence but also emphasizes her fierce protection of him. Briticisms are abundant, and the crisis episode, which highlights Zac’s impetuous nature, plays out against the backdrop of poll-tax protests. The siblings are curly-haired; their skin goes undescribed, but they are depicted on the cover (done by Aurélia Fronty) with pale skin.

A quiet, endearing protagonist achieves a dream unimagined by many children. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3839-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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