A powerful blend of important themes and everyday triumphs and sorrows.

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HOW TO FIND WHAT YOU'RE NOT LOOKING FOR

It’s 1967, and Ariel Goldberg’s adored older sister, Leah, has fallen for Raj, an immigrant college student from Bombay.

Their parents disapprove: To them, it’s bad enough that Leah wants to marry someone of a different race, even worse that he isn’t Jewish. After Leah elopes without even a letter to her sister, 11-year-old Ari is forced to reckon with a new understanding of her place within her family as the daughter who is now expected to take on the good-girl role. But that’s not her only problem. Her parents dreamed of a better life, yet they can’t afford to keep their beloved bakery running. Her mother sees Ari’s struggle with dysgraphia as laziness, and as the only Jewish kid in sixth grade, she faces antisemitism that goes unrecognized by her teachers. Her strained relationship with her parents and their beliefs rings heartbreakingly true alongside her struggle to find her own voice through poetry. As she and her best friend set out in secret to find Leah and repair her broken family, Ari must decide what she believes is right in an increasingly tumultuous world. Hiranandani captures with great nuance the details of Ari’s life. Sacrifices in the service of assimilation, the lies we tell the people we love most, and how we go about forgiving them are given specificity in Ari’s matter-of-fact and observant second-person present point of view.

A powerful blend of important themes and everyday triumphs and sorrows. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55503-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

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. 19, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

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

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