HAPPILY FOR NOW

Baked goods and good deeds go hand in hand.

Fiona is nervous about going to live with her great-aunt, great-uncle, and cousin once removed in the town of Cold Hope. It’s for the best, though: Her mom can get the in-patient treatment she needs for her addiction, and the protagonist is inspired by her fairy godperson, the very human social worker Nia Davis, to make the best of it. And it turns out there’s a lot to fix; the family bakery is headed toward bankruptcy, her older relatives all feel stifled creatively, and there’s a feud between two former best friends. With Pollyanna-like chipperness, Fiona manages to solve all of these problems while learning how to speak her truth, not take responsibility for others’ needs, and use spelled-out therapeutic strategies to self-soothe. Two major supporting characters who are cued as Black don’t seem to exist much beyond their roles in helping Fiona (who is White), but this story also takes a refreshingly cleareyed and sympathetic look at addiction and interpersonal conflict. It skirts the line of being preachy, but the boppy and lighthearted tone keeps it from veering into overly sentimental. Gentle and expressive black-and-white illustrations add emotion and texture to the novel.

Sweet but not cloying. (map) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-17952-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

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

Did you like this book?

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

more