“Who’s coming with me?” asks the brave duckling. Readers will.

DUCKLING

From the Fairytale Revolution series

This magical fable of courage and difference continues after Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale leaves off.

Once upon a time, a mother duck discovers an unusual egg in her nest that hatches a very different sort of duckling. Gray and different, the “raincloud-duckling” is rejected by all the animals on the farm, including her mother. Her life is a landscape of both cruelty and kindness: Mocked by strangers, besieged by hunters and their dogs, greeted by friends (who are then lost), and rescued from the ice, she wanders in the wilderness alone before finally realizing that she, too is a thing of beauty. However, while the original fairy tale ends there, this one continues with a final twist as the raincloud-duckling—now the “raincloud-snow-white-duckling-swan”—grapples with ideas of trust, love, friendship, kindness, and belonging. At long last she emerges not a misfit, but rather a hero and adventurer, deciding that it is better to “risk cruelty if it also means taking a chance on kindness.” The silhouette-style art fills the margins of the story, occasionally expanding to emphasize important moments in the narrative. This story asks young readers to think about complexity—both of belonging and of how unkindness and forgiveness are possible.

“Who’s coming with me?” asks the brave duckling. Readers will. (Picture book. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64259-575-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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