A readable but essentially inconsequential addition to Clements’ oeuvre.

THE FRIENDSHIP WAR

Clements draws on his memory of classroom fads for this newest exploration of sixth-grade politics.

Grace likes to collect things. When her grandfather takes her around the old New England mill he’s bought, she decides to add the dozens of boxes of buttons she finds there to her already-cluttered room. “I have a theory about why I collect so many things,” Grace adds intriguingly, but this motivation is never satisfyingly revealed. Described as “pretty,” she prefers scientific observation to trips to the mall and is slowly realizing the ways that her best friend, Ellie, who’s also “pretty,” makes her feel inadequate and unsupported. When Grace brings a handful of buttons to school as part of a social studies unit on the Industrial Revolution, other kids become inexplicably fascinated by them, and soon their school is overcome by a button craze reminiscent of the 17th-century Dutch tulip bubble or, more recently, Pogs. As trading and hoarding reach a fever pitch, Grace tries to navigate the destruction of one friendship, the start of another, and her own place in the middle school hierarchy. The button craze keeps the story tripping along, but somewhat broad characterizations and relatively low stakes—not to mention a perfectly neat ending—do not. Grace goes to an Illinois school where no one is identified racially, but all faces on the cover present white.

A readable but essentially inconsequential addition to Clements’ oeuvre. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55759-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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