This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more.

ONCE UPON AN EID

STORIES OF HOPE AND JOY BY 15 MUSLIM VOICES

Fifteen accomplished Muslim writers from various regions and backgrounds share Eid-themed short stories in this middle-grade collection.

Stylish Hawa from Philly spends Eid in New York City with the Mandinka side of the family and learns to get along with her cousin. Kareem buys himself a new bike, then learns how to embody the meaning of his own name: “generous.” Most of the young protagonists live in majority non-Muslim countries—Americans of various ethnicities in the United States, a Syrian family living in a refugee camp on a Greek island—and identity issues are sometimes in the foreground. The traditions depicted vary, but the themes of family, community, and faith permeate the volume. Whether making or buying special foods—Eid brownies, doughnuts, lontong—or taking care of younger siblings, these young heroes and heroines help make Eid special for others. The diversity within the collection is impressive, including several blended families and a recently converted one, and while the writing varies in style and quality, each story is engaging, full of emotion and thought. Particularly powerful are Jameela Thompkins-Bigelow’s poem connecting present-day Eid scenes to imaginings of the early Muslims who arrived in the Americas enslaved and Hanna Alkaf’s lyrical account of a Malay girl’s attempt to save Eid for her family. A well-placed graphic story by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Alfageeh, who also contributes a frontispiece to each story, provides a reprieve midway through the book.

This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more. (Anthology. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4083-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new.

11 BEFORE 12

Two BFFs tackle the anxiety-riddled transition to middle school by creating a list of 11 things to accomplish before their 12th birthdays in November.

Kaylan has what her Italian grandmother called “agita”—anxiety—and she has maximum-high levels at the prospect of sixth grade with its cliques and mean girls. Lots is changing in the white girl’s life: her dad has moved to Arizona and her mom is sad; her one-year-older brother, Ryan, once her friend, is now her tormentor; and she is beginning to get butterflies around boys. Kaylan and her best friend, Ari, white and Jewish, create a list, ranging from getting detention and makeovers to first kisses and sabotaging Ryan. When Ari connects with friends from Hebrew school and summer camp, the two BFFs fight. Kaylan’s not-quite-teen first-person voice perfectly captures the horrors of starting at a new school, from the prospect of eating alone in the cafeteria to the awkwardness of meeting a new neighbor boy, biracial (black/white) Jason. Jason supplies most of the book’s diversity; one of the indistinguishable lunch-table friends mentions being Korean but is undeveloped as a character. As is typical for the genre, Kaylan matures and learns to cope with unpredictability, even participating in the talent show as the fastest clementine peeler in school.

Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241174-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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