Gallagher’s tale evolves beyond a simple popularity quest, as amid the commotion wrought by her voodoo experiments, Cleo...

THE POPULARITY SPELL

From the Twist My Charm series , Vol. 1

A belated birthday gift creates havoc for 11-year-old Cleo.

In the decade since her mother’s death, it has always been just Cleo and her father, and that’s fine. But recent events cause turmoil for the sixth grader. After relocating to Los Angeles from Ohio, Cleo’s transition to her new school is complicated socially, due in part to the taunts from popular girl Madison. Also, her dad’s growing relationship with Terri further disconcerts Cleo. When Cleo receives a “Positive Happy Voodoo Doll” from her eccentric uncle, she is intrigued by the possibilities. Along with her new friend, Samantha, Cleo decides to use the doll’s voodoo to boost their popularity. But Cleo soon becomes ambivalent about the voodoo doll, even as Samantha insists they continue. Gallagher’s tale addresses concerns familiar to preteens about fitting in and friendships. When a hex appears to have a serious consequence, Cleo decides she’s done with magical manipulation, despite Samantha’s dismay. In a comically frenetic denouement, Cleo’s attempts to undo the voodoo complications garner an unexpected ally and a surprising new friend. While the effectiveness of Uncle Arnie’s magic remains a mystery, Gallagher ends the book by foreshadowing Cleo’s next magical misadventure.

Gallagher’s tale evolves beyond a simple popularity quest, as amid the commotion wrought by her voodoo experiments, Cleo gains an appreciation for authentic friendships. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51115-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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