A redoubtable protagonist in a good storyline that doesn’t quite deliver.

ON THESE MAGIC SHORES

When Mamá fails to return home after her evening job, it is up to 12-year-old Minerva Soledad Miranda to take care of her younger sisters and hold the family together.

The family lives in a moldy basement apartment, and Mamá works two jobs and dresses the girls in hand-me-downs. In spite of the obstacles, Minerva has her life all figured out. The Argentine American seventh grader will be “the first Latina president of the United States.” And the first step to that goal is to get the lead role in Peter Pan, the school play. But nothing is working out. First, and most importantly, Mamá has gone missing. Then, brown-skinned Minerva gets the role of Tiger Lily, a character with only one line—“how”—and one that Minerva finds offensive to Native Americans, prompting her to take action. As the book progresses, Méndez tackles problems of racism, discrimination, income inequality, immigration, and ethnic and cultural stereotypes. All are real, true, and valid points, but they are laid out with such a heavy hand as to grow preachy, causing the book’s balance to tip from story to lesson. Mamá’s absence works well as a device to allow Minerva to come to the fore, but her reappearance and the explanation for her disappearance feel contrived. Nevertheless, there is still much to like, and readers will find a strong and resilient character they can root for in this story.

A redoubtable protagonist in a good storyline that doesn’t quite deliver. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64379-031-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

WORDS WITH WINGS

In this delightfully spare narrative in verse, Coretta Scott King Award–winning Grimes examines a marriage’s end from the perspective of a child.

Set mostly in the wake of her father’s departure, only-child Gabby reveals with moving clarity in these short first-person poems the hardship she faces relocating with her mother and negotiating the further loss of a good friend while trying to adjust to a new school. Gabby has always been something of a dreamer, but when she begins study in her new class, she finds her thoughts straying even more. She admits: “Some words / sit still on the page / holding a story steady. / … / But other words have wings / that wake my daydreams. / They … / tickle my imagination, / and carry my thoughts away.” To illustrate Gabby’s inner wanderings, Grimes’ narrative breaks from the present into episodic bursts of vivid poetic reminiscence. Luckily, Gabby’s new teacher recognizes this inability to focus to be a coping mechanism and devises a daily activity designed to harness daydreaming’s creativity with a remarkably positive result for both Gabby and the entire class. Throughout this finely wrought narrative, Grimes’ free verse is tight, with perfect breaks of line and effortless shifts from reality to dream states and back.

An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-985-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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