JONAH, THE WHALE

An overweight boy transforms his fantasy of TV stardom into a formula for success in this poignant, affirming novel from Shreve (The Formerly Great Alexander Family, 1995, etc.). When his mother’s boyfriend, Thomas, walks out on their family, 11-year-old Jonah barely has time to react before they move to a more affordable apartment. Feeling empty inside, missing his “almost-father,” he overeats, and soon none of his three pairs of pants fits comfortably. But there’s no money for new pants; Jonah’s mother works two low-paying jobs to support him and his baby brother. When he is dubbed “Jonah the Whale” at his new school, rather than let the insult fester, Jonah turns the image into an unlikely symbol of empowerment: He imagines himself sitting inside a whale on the set of a new talk show exclusively for kids. While his grades and classwork suffer, Jonah methodically develops the idea for his show, selecting his first guests, choosing his questions, and even taping an imaginary interview with basketball star Michael Jordan. Some playground bragging forces Jonah to prove that he really talked to Jordan, and through the boy’s initiative—and Jordan’s kindness—Jonah succeeds. In fact, his first interviews are so impressive that he eventually winds up with his own television show, just as he dreamed. His other dream, that Jonah’s mother and boyfriend reconcile, is also realized, the one false note in an uplifting tale with an unpredictable plot and a sympathetic, likable hero. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-590-37133-9

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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