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

THE SWEETEST SOUND

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. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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Fans of the series will be delighted.

CLASH

From the Click series , Vol. 4

Can Olive stay positive when a social-climbing bully moves to town?

In her fourth adventure, sixth grader Olive Branche is on top of the world until new girl Natasha begins to encroach on her friendships, slowly and methodically freezing her out of her many different social circles. Relentlessly optimistic Olive tries to stay genial despite Nat’s overt jibes, but when Nat takes it to a new level and ruins Olive’s carefully planned Halloween party, Olive finally confronts her. When Nat finds herself consequently ostracized, empathetic Olive has a change of heart and extends her an olive branch (groan). Olive and Nat’s relationship is highly idealized, bordering almost on wish fulfillment; Nat’s backstory offers some explanation for her behavior, but she is accepted back into the fold more easily than may seem realistic. Olive’s appeal is in her unceasing Pollyanna-like sunniness and her ability to be accommodating and find the best in every situation. Though consistent in tone with its predecessors, in this entry Olive does have some moments of anger (albeit quickly reconciled); her portrayal here is the most human she’s been throughout the series. Although this is the fourth installment, each volume is mostly self-contained, making this equally accessible for established and new readers. Olive and Nat read as White; the supporting cast is inclusive and diverse.

Fans of the series will be delighted. (Halloween costume craft ideas, author Q&A) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-24220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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