DEAR HANK WILLIAMS

Tate has gumption, and it's a good thing: She’s the only one who has faith in her ability to sing—except for her little brother, Frog, and everyone seems surprised whenever Tate mentions him.

Tate explains all this and more in her pen-pal letters to Hank Williams. Her teacher has arranged an exchange of letters with Japanese students, but it's too soon after World War II for Tate’s comfort; besides, she and Hank have singing in common. Sassy and observant, Tate also tells him how her parents travel while she lives in a house by a cemetery with her aunt, uncle and Frog. She helps Aunt Patty Cake sell cosmetics—except in Pine Bend where colored folks live, but her aunt won’t explain why this is. Writing proves therapeutic, and Tate begins to revise half-truths: She has no idea where her father is, and Momma is in jail. And Tate almost gives up the idea of the talent contest she’s had her heart set on entering when her new dog, Lovie, goes missing: She’s too sad to sing. It's while searching for Lovie in the cemetery that Tate faces, finally, the lie she's been telling herself about her most sorrowful loss. Real to the period and place, subtle and gently paced, Tate's story is heartbreaking but hopeful; when she sings, Tate remembers the good times.

Soulful and satisfying. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8022-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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