Ultimately, this important topic deserves a more in-depth exploration than this brief, albeit thoughtful, effort offers.

MINNIE MCCLARY SPEAKS HER MIND

A shy sixth-grader learns to speak out against prejudice when her community rushes to judge an unusual teacher.

Minnie is new to the school; her family has downsized since her father lost his job after objecting to an employee’s unfair treatment. Minnie's newly minted teacher, Miss Marks, whose jeans and T-shirts, multiple ear piercings, tattoo and rumored lesbianism immediately raise eyebrows, captivates her language arts class with her unique teaching style. She's thoughtful and wise, challenging the class to think objectively, especially about prejudice. Minnie observes growing bias against not just Miss Marks, but also her new Muslim friend, Amira, but she’s torn between remaining safely unobtrusive or taking a stand for what’s right. Her Uncle Bill, an amputee war veteran, provides just the right nudge to Minnie as he begins to take control of his life. While Minnie’s character is well-developed, others are painted with a frustratingly broad brush. Astute readers may wonder why Minnie’s mother makes such a rush to judgment, facilely dismissing her daughter's opinion, and why there is such a sharp, seemingly swift response against a largely effective teacher. Some side stories lack sufficient development: that of a classmate who's abruptly withdrawn from school and another about a possible breach of Miss Marks’ privacy at home by older students.

Ultimately, this important topic deserves a more in-depth exploration than this brief, albeit thoughtful, effort offers. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-32496-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Energizing and compassionate.

OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH

An aspiring transgender Junior Olympian swimmer finds the strength and pride in his identity to race toward his dreams in this debut coming-of-age novel by groundbreaking trans athlete Bailar.

Starting over after his abusive and discriminatory swim coach excluded him from the team, Obie Chang, a biracial (White/Korean) transgender boy worries about catching up to the other boys and proving that he is “man enough.” Although his family supports him, one of his best friends at school and the pool has turned into his biggest bully, and the other is drifting away toward the mean, popular girls. As he dives from the blocks into the challenging waters of seventh grade and swims toward his goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Obie discovers belonging in his community and in himself. Affirming adults—including his parents and grandparents, a new swim coach, and his favorite teacher—play significant supporting roles by offering encouragement without pressure, centering Obie’s feelings, and validating Obie’s right to set his own boundaries. Vulnerable first-person narration explores Obie’s internal conflict about standing up for himself and his desire to connect to his Korean heritage through his relationship with Halmoni, his paternal grandmother. A romance with Charlie, a cisgender biracial (Cuban/White) girl, is gentle and privacy-affirming. Short chapters and the steady pace of external tension balance moments of rumination, grounding them in the ongoing action of Obie’s experiences.

Energizing and compassionate. (author's note, resources, glossary) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37946-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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