The action scenes add a level of excitement that will keep sports fans reading.

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THE LEAGUE

A conscientious, undersized middle schooler decides he wants sports success even if it means lying about the secret league he joins.

Wyatt Parker has decided he is tired of being bullied, and he also wants his best buddy, girl-next-door Evan, to see him as more than a friend. The fact that she seems smitten with a high school quarterback reinforces the idea that playing football is the answer. His parents are supportive of sports: His older brother, Aaron, plays football. Wyatt, though, is small for his age, and they think the sport too dangerous, so his dad enrolls him in golf camp. Then his older brother lets him in on a secret football league with no adult supervision, where the hitting is fierce and only the toughest are welcome, including his school’s biggest bully. In order to play, Wyatt will have to engage in the kind of deception that he hates. The more he becomes involved in the league, the more he changes, until his relationship with Evan is affected. This story weaves family issues with the role that sports plays for teens, especially in the transitional period leading to high school. Wyatt is a strong, multidimensional character, and the tension is palpable as he strives to keep his secret. Secondary characters are varied if not very fully developed early in the book.

The action scenes add a level of excitement that will keep sports fans reading. (Fiction 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74181-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Brava! (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava! (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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