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Endearing, hopeful, and sure to make your mouth water.

A pandemic story told through the eyes of a girl growing up in Wuhan, China, author Compestine’s own hometown.

Grieving her mother’s death and with Father busy working as a physician at a major hospital, 13-year-old Mei often finds herself home alone. She fills the solitude with her favorite pastime: cooking. When she isn’t busy in her apartment kitchen, she jumps into her virtual one in the computer game Chop Chop. There, she and her teammates’ key strokes and culinary knowledge fend off zombie invaders by making sure the soldiers are well fed to fight. Mei’s virtual escape soon becomes all too real, though it is not zombies that threaten but the new airborne viral disease the world will come to know as Covid-19. As the city enters lockdown and neighbors fall ill, Mei joins forces with her gamer friends to prepare meals and coordinate food deliveries to their neighborhoods. All the while, Mei’s own anxieties simmer on the back burner: Is her father safe working at the hospital? Does her Aunty hate her for choosing to stay with Father? Readers who have lived through the pandemic over the last few years will surely identify with Mei’s worries and hopes for a brighter post-pandemic future. The simple story is a bridge builder across geography and culture, universal in its themes of family and community through the global pandemic, encouraging empathy, introspection, and optimism.

Endearing, hopeful, and sure to make your mouth water. (recipes, cooking glossary, information on cutting techniques, author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-57205-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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