Uplifting and amusing, this book will leave readers with valuable lessons.

FIGURE IT OUT, HENRI WELDON

A girl with a learning disability navigates the demands of her new school and family dynamics.

Henrietta “Henri” Weldon, a Black tween, is cautiously excited about starting seventh grade. It’d be helpful if her older sister, Kat, answered any of her probing questions about what to expect, but she’s acted strangely ever since Henri completed her math placement test. In the middle of a mentally taxing first day, the last thing Henri needed was to drop her change in the lunchroom, but it results in her meeting Vinnie Morgan and his multiracial group of foster home siblings. As they form friendships, Henri craves the bond that the Morgans possess; it contrasts with her own competitive, driven family. Kat warns her to stay away from the Morgans, however, seeing them as troublemakers. But Henri doesn’t have much time to worry about this, as she tries to stay on top of parental schoolwork expectations, playing soccer, and writing poetry. The story’s brisk pace and accessible vocabulary help readers quickly get to know Henri and the interesting supporting cast. Without sacrificing the story’s light tone, the author highlights the daily obstacles that Henri confronts due to her dyscalculia (which is never explicitly named in the text) and her longing for a tighter family unit. Skillfully realized, this is an affirming and inspiring tale for readers who are only ever told what they can’t accomplish.

Uplifting and amusing, this book will leave readers with valuable lessons. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-314357-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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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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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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