KID OWNER

A wish-fulfillment fantasy pleasingly complicated by real emotional journeys.

An undersized middle school football player inherits an NFL team.

When his father—whom Ryan’s never met and whose name he doesn’t even know—dies, he leaves Ryan the Dallas Cowboys. A confusing series of flashbacks and exposition about Ryan’s relationship with football sets the story up, including his mother’s initial refusal to let him play and the odd position he occupied on the team as a player so small that his coaches purposefully prevented him from experiencing the contact side of the sport. This rough beginning gives way to a character-driven story. Ryan battles urges to exploit his new status, with the help of a mother determined to teach him to be a good person and two wonderful best friends (a friendly giant of a teammate and a pretty, fantasy-football whiz) who like Ryan for himself, not because he’s the newly famous kid owner. But bullies on his team still target Ryan, and Ryan’s wicked stepmother schemes to snatch the Cowboys for her own son—the star player of the rival middle school’s team. When Ryan isn’t dealing with power plays from lawyers or the Cowboys’ feuding general manager and coach, he’s trying to earn a shot at quarterback; despite his not-spectacular arm, Ryan’s ability to read defense makes him a natural for a spread offense. All storylines culminate in a big game, and it’s a good one.

A wish-fulfillment fantasy pleasingly complicated by real emotional journeys. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229379-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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