A rollicking, affectionate parody of fantasy role-playing.

HOMEROOMS & HALL PASSES

Five heroes face their most trying quest yet: surviving middle school.

In the real world of Bríandalör, Albiorix and his band of fellow adventurers thwart evil forces, but, once a week, on Thursday nights, they meet at the local tavern for a game of Homerooms & Hall Passes, their fantasy role-playing escape. With dice and their imaginations, they transform into students who worry about class elections, algebra tests, spirit week, and the dreaded five-paragraph essay instead of magic, traps, and treasure. However, even with all his dedication to the game, Albiorix never could have predicted he and his friends would end up transported by a curse into the world of J.A. Dewar Middle School. Now they must struggle through the final two months of the semester in the lives of their characters or risk disappearing forever. Apart from remarks about pointy ears, shiny hair, and muscles, O’Donnell doesn’t give the characters much physical description, but the cover illustration and naming conventions suggest that both the Bríandalörians and middle schoolers are fairly diverse. Every chapter opens with an excerpt from the Homerooms & Hall Passes rule book, capturing the spirit of their tabletop role-playing game and foreshadowing upcoming encounters. Each adventurer learns a different lesson and grows through their humorous attempts at embodying their game personas. The villain is satisfyingly over-the-top, and his defeat befits the book’s silly sense of humor.

A rollicking, affectionate parody of fantasy role-playing. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287214-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Honor Book

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

  • National Book Award Winner

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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