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BORDERS

Brilliant.

A family tries to overcome all borders.

Laetitia has moved from her reserve in Alberta to Salt Lake City in Utah. When her mother and younger brother try to visit, they run into a problem at the border. The agents at the U.S. booth ask them their citizenship, and the mother answers only “Blackfoot.” The agents will accept only either “Canadian” or “American.” Turned away, they proceed back past the duty-free store to the Canadian booth, where the same thing happens—again and again. Mother and son are marooned between the borders for days. Readers see this from the unnamed brother’s perspective, which flashes back and forth between the past when Laetitia decides to move away and the attempted visit. King, of Cherokee and Greek descent, adapts his text from a previously published short story, laconic text expanded by artwork that captures the vastness of the Albertan prairie sky, with multiple panels showcasing the sky above buildings and natural backdrops. The story highlights both the universal feelings of a family moving apart and a very specific Indigenous experience: The Blackfoot have existed since before the border, and now they are artificially split into two sides, an absurdity captured here with trenchant, cutting wryness. Métis illustrator Donovan’s depictions of Blackfoot people are slightly varied, showing those who live on a reserve as well as urban Indigenous who live in cities.

Brilliant. (Graphic fiction. 8-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59306-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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