Growing up, like birth and like death, involves struggle, but Mira’s largely spared its messy, painful side; this is...

MIRA IN THE PRESENT TENSE

Puberty, first love and a grandparent’s death figure in this gentle coming-of-age debut from the U.K., winner of Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize in 2011.

On her busy 12th birthday, Mira, a budding artist of Indian-Jewish heritage, gets her first period, dreams about the Rwandan boy in her writing class and agrees to help her ailing Nana Josie paint her coffin. Among her presents is a diary in which she’ll record her next five weeks. Like Judy Blume’s Margaret, Mira desires and fears growing up, but there the two part ways. Grappling with life’s big questions, Margaret finds adult answers unsatisfactory, conflicting and contradictory; disillusioned, she’ll find her own. Mira’s journey is less stressful than reflective, studded with mature insights and wry reflection as she absorbs life lessons from her elders, especially Nana Josie, who, having lived a full life, now orchestrates her approaching death. (Movingly portrayed in realistic detail, her looming death and Mira’s sorrow are the novel’s strong suit.) Title notwithstanding, Mira’s passivity and the largely conflict-free plot are distancing. Because readers first learn that Mira’s bullied two pages before she fights back, her triumph has little impact.

Growing up, like birth and like death, involves struggle, but Mira’s largely spared its messy, painful side; this is adolescence as adults would like it to be, not as children live it. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5149-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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