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THE BRAID GIRLS

An enjoyable story with lively and engaging protagonists.

A tween in Jacksonville, Florida, worries about changes in her closest friendship.

Daija and Maggie are best friends, two Black girls with plans to turn their hair-braiding skills into a summer business. Things become complicated with the arrival of Maggie’s new half sister, Callie; Callie’s White mom had kept her existence a secret from Maggie’s dad until just before her death. Maggie’s close-knit family absorbs their new addition, but there’s naturally some tension. Meanwhile, Daija desperately needs Braid Girls to succeed so she can afford private ballet lessons. The girls incorporate their braiding business into their duties as junior counselors at a local day camp and get off to a great start—until girls from another camp set up a rival business and try to steal their clients. This adversity, along with Daija’s worries about money and her place in Maggie’s life, creates a rift, revealing personality differences the friends had ignored. But they eventually realize their different ways of handling things can make them a stronger unit. In addition to the centrality of friendship in the lives of middle schoolers, the family connections are richly portrayed. Daija’s drive to prove herself to her father, now remarried, is always on her mind; Maggie’s need to play peacemaker is perceived as a weakness; and Callie puts on a brave face while mourning her mom. The story is told in the three girls’ alternating voices, and the supporting adult characters add realistic texture.

An enjoyable story with lively and engaging protagonists. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780316461610

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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WRECKING BALL

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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