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THE SWEETEST SOUND

Readers will be rooting for both Cadence as she claims her gift and the community who supports her.

What if, in not keeping a promise to God, you make a deal with the devil?

Ten-year-old Cadence Mariah Jolly, named after singer Mariah Carey, belies her name: she suffers from near-deleterious social anxiety, especially after her mother left her, her father, older brother, and the small town of Harmony, Pennsylvania, to pursue a singing career. The solicitous, diverse townspeople—from the African-American Trinity Sisters and server Sofine to Chinese-American classmate Mei-Mei’s mother—who dote on the black family with pity and prayer don’t know that Cadence’s mother left her with another gift: the ability to sing…mostly because Cadence is terrified to use it. When she initially prays for a keyboard and microphone, she makes a deal with God that if she gets them she would indeed share her talent, but she vacillates as opportunities, such as graduating to the Youth Choir, appear. When Cadence inadvertently sings in front of her best friends, Zara and Faith, one of them tries to exploit the main character’s shyness for her own chance at fame. Though some may feel Winston overdoes the musical names (in addition to Cadence, there’s her dog, Lyra, and the choir assistant, Miss Stravinski), she creates a rich and winning first-person story about a deeply introverted black girl who nearly loses her gift because of her understandable but undermining fear.

Readers will be rooting for both Cadence as she claims her gift and the community who supports her. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30295-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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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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