ZORA AND ME

From the Zora & Me series , Vol. 1

The childhood of African-American literary giant Zora Neale Hurston is brought to life with this fictionalized account. At the turn of the 20th century, in the all-black town of Eatonville, Fla., Young Zora is considered both a brilliant storyteller and the town liar. Her best friend, Carrie, the "me" of the title, is drawn into Zora’s family and story world after her father leaves for work and never returns home. Zora’s stories about a shape-shifting alligator take on a life of their own when two murders occur around Eatonville. The suspect is a reclusive neighbor, Mr. Pendir, whom Zora is convinced is the “gator man.” Yet the answer is much more prosaic, as the segregated world outside Eatonville encroaches upon their town in the form of traveling man Ivory and the preternaturally beautiful yet mysterious Gold. The brilliance of this novel is its rendering of African-American child life during the Jim Crow era as a time of wonder and imagination, while also attending to its harsh realities. Absolutely outstanding. (Historical fiction. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4300-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

HOLDING SMOKE

Intertwined spectral and real worlds deliver double the thrills.

Leaving his actual body behind in prison, Smoke can move through the world as a ghost in this fantastic yet real portrait of a survivor seeking answers.

John “Smoke” Conlan has survived a brutal beating from his father, a murder conviction, and prison life. His uncanny ability evidently triggered by the beating, Smoke exists inside and outside the fictional Greater Denver Youth Offender Rehabilitation Center (unrealistically represented as a maximum security prison). Smoke keeps his physical body protected on the inside thanks to the balance of favors earned outside his body. On one such errand, he discovers that a young waitress at a seedy dive can actually see him. Smoke’s vivid present-tense narration is filtered according to his concerns. He insists that he is innocent of killing his favorite teacher but guilty of killing a fellow student in self-defense, keeping readers teetering between a belief that the punishment is justified and cheering Smoke on to fight for freedom. The narrative’s romance is chaste, and it tempers the intensity brought to the story by the threats of guards, fellow inmates, and outside criminals. Though the complex plot is based on an impossible premise, readers will be flipping the pages, watching the diverse cast (Smoke is white) race toward the climax.

Intertwined spectral and real worlds deliver double the thrills. (Paranormal suspense. 11-16)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2597-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.

It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Indian American Reha feels caught between two worlds.

Monday through Friday, she goes to a school where she stands out for not being White but where she has a weekday best friend, Rachel, and does English projects with potential crush Pete. On the weekends, she’s with her other best friend, Sunita (Sunny for short), at gatherings hosted by her Indian community. Reha feels frustrated that her parents refuse to acknowledge her Americanness and insist on raising her with Indian values and habits. Then, on the night of the middle school dance, her mother is admitted to the hospital, and Reha’s world is split in two again: this time, between hospital and home. Suddenly she must learn not just how to be both Indian and American, but also how to live with her mother’s leukemia diagnosis. The sections dealing with Reha’s immigrant identity rely on oft-told themes about the overprotectiveness of immigrant parents and lack the nuance found in later pages. Reha’s story of her evolving relationships with her parents, however, feels layered and real, and the scenes in which Reha must grapple with the possible loss of a parent are beautifully and sensitively rendered. The sophistication of the text makes it a valuable and thought-provoking read even for those older than the protagonist.

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss. (Verse novel. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304742-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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