TREASURE OF THE WORLD

Hoping to escape the harsh labor that binds her Bolivian mining village to the mountain called Cerro Rico, 12-year-old Ana risks life and soul to unchain herself and her family.

For Ana and her sickly younger brother, Daniel, cherished school days come to a premature close when Papi, a man filled with meanness, forces Daniel to join him in the mines. Daniel, however, doesn’t last long, returning sick on his second day. Brave Ana volunteers to take her brother’s place until he can recover, much to the disapproval of Mami, Abuelita, and, particularly, the other miners, who deem her appearance in the mines a bad omen. The dreaded misfortune comes in the form of a cave-in: Papi dies and Daniel goes missing. Though everyone believes that Daniel is dead, Ana doesn’t give up hope and secretly enters the mountain one quiet night to find him, ending up lost, disoriented, and on the verge of death. But when she returns to the land of the living, she finds her world forever altered. The bittersweet splendors in Sullivan’s latest offer an intense meditation on community, child labor, and ancestral roots, among other themes. Rich with memorable characters and streaks of brilliant writing, as in the author’s previous works, Ana’s story takes readers on an arduous and ultimately rewarding journey that illuminates a fraction of the human toll behind the profit-driven pursuits of a materialistic world.

Heartbreakingly splendid. (author’s note, note on language use, glossary) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51696-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience. (Fiction. 10-14)

THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS

A middle school story in which parental depression manifests itself in absence.

Natalie’s vivacious botanist mother (who’s white) has retreated from life, leaving her therapist husband (who’s biracial) and daughter to fill the gaping hole she has left. With the help of an egg-drop contest and a scientific-method project, Natalie explores breakable things and the nurturing of hope. Narrating in first-person, the mixed-race seventh-grader (1/4 Korean and 3/4 white) is drawn to her mother’s book, titled How to Grow A Miracle. It reminds her of when her mother was excited by science and questions and life. With a STEM-inspired chapter framework and illustrated with Neonakis’ scientific drawings, Keller’s debut novel uses the scientific method to unpack the complex emotions depression can cause. Momentum builds over nine months as Natalie observes, questions, researches, experiments, and analyzes clues to her mother’s state of mind. Providing support and some comic relief are her two sidekicks, Dari (a smart Indian immigrant boy) and Twig (Natalie’s wealthy, white best friend). The diversity of the characters provides identity and interest, not issue or plotline. Tension peaks at the egg-drop contest, as the three friends plan to use the prize winnings to bring Natalie’s mother back to life with a gift of a rare cobalt blue orchid. Paralleling their scientific progress, Natalie reluctantly experiences her first visits to talk therapy, slowly opening like a tight bloom.

A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1566-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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