A cursory examination of grief that culminates in a feel-good read.

BOY SEEKING BAND

After losing his mother, a bereft middle school boy decides to form a band.

Terence Kato has had a horrible year: his mother has died; his dad is depressed and spends most days in bed; and he’s had to leave his exclusive private art school for the public one. At Franklin Middle School—where music is an extracurricular—Terence decides to form his own band, although, constrained by his grief, he is determined not to make actual friends. He meets Eddie, a girl with “dark skin, short hair, and a suspicious golden piercing in her nose.” Eddie is a singer, and over time, she helps him meet the other members that eventually compose their band, the PA Quintet. The group decides to enter a battle-of-the-bands contest only to discover that their competition is none other than Terence’s old classmates from his former school. Terence’s pain is palpable but only on a surface level; Brezenoff’s tale never takes a deep dive into any great character development and keeps readers at arm’s length with its third-person, present-tense narration. This aside, the plotting is light and breezy, and while predictable, the story is comfortably uplifting. Music fans will delight in (and most likely run to look up) the dizzying array of musicians mentioned. Though Terence has a common Japanese surname, there is little sense of Japanese identity in the book.

A cursory examination of grief that culminates in a feel-good read. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62370-853-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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 deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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