A low-key marvel rich in surprises, small fuzzy creatures, and friendships old and new.

THE HOUSE THAT WASN'T THERE

The arrival of new neighbors kicks off strange events and life-changing experiences for two families.

With an inward focus reminiscent of the novels of Kevin Henkes, Arnold sets shy, 11-year-old Alder Madigan, living with his mom at 15 Rollingwood Dr., against outgoing Oak Carson, who has moved next door to No. 11 with her mom while her dad stays behind in San Francisco to tie up loose ends. Relations get off to a rocky start after Oak’s mother arbitrarily has the huge old tree between the houses cut down. Distress at the tree’s loss is compounded by Alder’s erstwhile best friend’s hanging out with a popular kid, leading to hostile initial encounters with Oak. Still, Alder and his new neighbor are drawn together by a series of mystifying experiences—including finding out that it’s not always true that there’s no No. 13 on their block and discovering that they’ve independently adopted sibling kittens. Saving one last, wonderful coincidence for the climactic arrival of Oak’s father, the author enriches her sparely told story with other hints of magic, song lyrics, good choices that key sudden sea changes in several relationships, and the small background details that make settings and backstories seem real. Readers will find Alder’s conclusion that everything is connected, and also complicated, well taken. The cast presents as White.

A low-key marvel rich in surprises, small fuzzy creatures, and friendships old and new. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293706-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has somestandards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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