Thought-provoking and smart and a great springboard for discussions on race and class.

PRESIDENT OF THE WHOLE SIXTH GRADE

GIRL CODE

From the President series

Brianna Justice wants nothing more than to be a star reporter.

The president of her sixth-grade class at Blueberry Hills Middle School, this young, African-American student always gets what she goes after—most of the time. Her overzealousness to be mentored by her favorite TV news reporter backfires and lands her instead with a newspaper journalist. As her first assignment, he has her cover a SheCodes program at Price Academy. Brianna frets over this seemingly lackluster assignment because the school is located in what she believes to be a “shady neighborhood” on Detroit’s east side. From the first, Brianna wrestles with self-consciousness over her financial privilege and with her own stereotypes about the African-American students at Price. She comes to realize that using the word “ghetto” to describe the kids she meets there is not only derogatory, but it also deflects attention from the real issues of poverty and lack of opportunity within that community. This perceptive tale about how a young girl grapples with the diversity of conditions within her own racial demographic trusts its readers with weighty material. Winston does an excellent job highlighting the complex race issues that African-American children face. Though her father and grandfather tell her not to use the word “ghetto,” it is her white mentor who schools Brianna on the history of the word, and this is when the use of the word finally sinks in for her.

Thought-provoking and smart and a great springboard for discussions on race and class. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-50528-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

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The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes.

COUNT ME IN

Seventh graders Karina Chopra and Chris Daniels live in Houston, Texas, and although they are next-door neighbors, they have different interests and their paths rarely cross.

In fact, Karina, whose family is Indian, doesn’t want to be friends with Chris, whose family is white, because the boys he hangs out with are mean to her. Things change when Karina’s immigrant paternal grandfather, Papa, moves in with Karina’s family. Papa begins tutoring Chris in math, and, as a result, Chris and Karina begin spending time with each other. Karina even comes to realize that Chris is not at all like the rest of his friends and that she should give him a second chance. One day, when Karina, Papa, and Chris are walking home from school, something terrible happens: They are assaulted by a stranger who calls Papa a Muslim terrorist, and he is badly injured. The children find themselves wanting to speak out for Papa and for other first-generation Americans like him. Narrated by Karina and Chris in alternate chapters, Bajaj’s novel gives readers varied and valuable perspectives of what it means to be first- and third-generation Indian Americans in an increasingly diverse nation. Unfortunately, however, Bajaj’s characters are quite bland, and the present-tense narrative voices of the preteen protagonists lack both distinction and authenticity.

The novel’s dryness is mitigated in part by its exploration of immigrant identity, xenophobia, and hate crimes. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51724-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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