A delightful multicultural narrative that spotlights friendship and self-awareness.

SERENA SAYS

Eleven-year-old Serena has always considered herself to be the sidekick to her best friend, JC.

Serena has been anticipating their first visit in over a week, as JC is hospitalized following a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, Serena comes down with a bad cold, and classmate Leilani steps into her role as class ambassador to deliver the gift bag they put together at school. Soon JC is full of talk about Lani, and Serena finds herself resentful of their closeness. Despite the efforts of her mother and older sister, Serena has trouble accepting that relationships change and feels pushed aside despite having new activities and friendships. She even wonders if race is a factor: She is Black while JC is Filipina and Lani is Hawaiian. However, JC’s medical issues have exacted a toll: She has become prickly around Serena and seems to reserve her good humor for her new friend. Serena practices recording a personal vlog where she pours out her feelings. It takes time, but Serena does find her own worth and even manages to stand up to her best friend. Middle school energy forms a bustling backdrop for this clever story of navigating changing relationships and developing a sense of personal identity. Secondary characters and storylines provide humor and pathos while at the center is spirited, smart Serena, someone readers will appreciate and cheer.

A delightful multicultural narrative that spotlights friendship and self-awareness. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293697-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

  • Newbery Honor Book

BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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