Bits of Indian culture and Bollywood drama add delicious undertones to this confection, a treat for middle-grade readers.


Best friends Dini and Maddie and Bollywood movie star Dolly Singh, from Krishnaswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011), return for a breathless dance through Washington, D.C.

Dini’s visit from India, where she’s been living, back to Takoma Park, Md., reunites the sixth-graders. They plan to take part in the grand opening of the star’s latest film, part of an Indian festival at the Smithsonian. But this dance doesn’t progress smoothly: The flighty star has lost her passport; she wants an elephant for the festival parade; she needs rose-petal milkshakes and a really nice cake for her party. And there’s more. The caterers have canceled. Maddie hopes her new friend Brenna can be part of their performance. When Mini, a young elephant in the National Zoo, takes off down Connecticut Avenue, the tranquilizing dart meant for her hits Dolly’s husband. Jumping from one scene to another, the fast-paced, present-tense narrative conveys Dini’s jittery jet-lagged feeling as she struggles to choreograph her own steps and to make Dolly happy. Just as the star drops jewelry, the author flings pieces of plot everywhere, but she pulls it all back together in fine Bollywood style. Halpin’s grayscale illustrations (final art not seen) add flavor.

Bits of Indian culture and Bollywood drama add delicious undertones to this confection, a treat for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner


Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?


There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?