The author’s love for camp shines through, and although this novel will likely have a narrow appeal, it’s a strong choice...

CAMP ROLLING HILLS

From the Camp Rolling Hills series , Vol. 1

An anxious boy and a grieving girl on the cusp of adolescence find nascent love at Camp Rolling Hills, a summer camp steeped in its own mythology and culture.

The book features the two worst nicknames for protagonists in recent memory. Slimey, age 12, has been going to Camp Rolling Hills since she was a little girl, but it’s Smelly’s first summer. Smelly, who suffers from anxiety and gains confidence over the course of the novel, is there because his parents need time to work out their marriage difficulties. Slimey, who works hard to hide her pain, is still heartbroken over the death of her father. This slice-of-summer novel is overpopulated, with six characters in the boys’ bunk and six in the girls’ plus two counselors, and readers may have trouble keeping track of who’s who. With all these characters, it’s a shame it’s not more obviously diverse, with one Yiddish-spouting Asian boy and another with an Afro (but white skin in the thumbnail guide to the characters in the frontmatter). It’s told from alternating third-person perspectives, Slimey’s and Smelly’s, augmented by funnily realistic letters home from other campers. The book celebrates summer camp as a safe place for children to reinvent themselves, to experiment and be more daring than they might otherwise be.

The author’s love for camp shines through, and although this novel will likely have a narrow appeal, it’s a strong choice for first-time campers and for those who find camp and its rituals delightful. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1885-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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