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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Energizing and compassionate.

OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH

An aspiring transgender Junior Olympian swimmer finds the strength and pride in his identity to race toward his dreams in this debut coming-of-age novel by groundbreaking trans athlete Bailar.

Starting over after his abusive and discriminatory swim coach excluded him from the team, Obie Chang, a biracial (White/Korean) transgender boy worries about catching up to the other boys and proving that he is “man enough.” Although his family supports him, one of his best friends at school and the pool has turned into his biggest bully, and the other is drifting away toward the mean, popular girls. As he dives from the blocks into the challenging waters of seventh grade and swims toward his goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Obie discovers belonging in his community and in himself. Affirming adults—including his parents and grandparents, a new swim coach, and his favorite teacher—play significant supporting roles by offering encouragement without pressure, centering Obie’s feelings, and validating Obie’s right to set his own boundaries. Vulnerable first-person narration explores Obie’s internal conflict about standing up for himself and his desire to connect to his Korean heritage through his relationship with Halmoni, his paternal grandmother. A romance with Charlie, a cisgender biracial (Cuban/White) girl, is gentle and privacy-affirming. Short chapters and the steady pace of external tension balance moments of rumination, grounding them in the ongoing action of Obie’s experiences.

Energizing and compassionate. (author's note, resources, glossary) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37946-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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