Upbeat, engaging and satisfying; altogether a very fine book, especially for boys looking for a bit of believable,...

FORT

What preteen boy wouldn’t love to build a fort in the woods?

DeFelice makes that dream come true. Wyatt, on summer vacation in upstate New York with his dad, and Augie, who lives there all year round with his grandmother, hatch a plan to build a fort in the woods. Augie’s deftly depicted great-uncle and his junkyard buddy provide the necessary materials. Augie’s pillowy-bosomed—a trait Wyatt hilariously can’t help but notice—great-aunt gives them food. Wyatt’s dad offers him the freedom to explore and grow. Augie, something of a modern-day Huckleberry Finn, has ample talent as a woodsman. The very real threat from bullies J.R. and Morrie, and their abuse of mentally disabled Gerard, a good-natured neighborhood kid, provide the impetus for Operation Doom. That plan to defend the fort and protect Gerard (and even provide some justice) leads to a glorious, feel-good climax in which all the right things work out and the bad guys get their richly deserved comeuppance. Along the way, some squirrels are sacrificed by slingshot to provide good meals, and a car-parts calendar that includes photos of attractive young women adds realistic detail, both serving to enhance the authenticity of this captivating tale.

Upbeat, engaging and satisfying; altogether a very fine book, especially for boys looking for a bit of believable, achievable adventure. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-32427-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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