Some may find this overly sweet, but Bo is an endearing Pollyanna in a parka.

BO AT BALLARD CREEK

A warm tale set in an Alaskan gold-mining town in 1929-30.

Bo, a 5-year-old girl, was adopted as a newborn by two gruff but tenderhearted blacksmiths who’ve toiled in the mining camps of the Yukon for years. These unlikely fathers smoke a bit and swear a bit, but they love Bo with all their hearts. Theirs is an extraordinarily generous, solicitous, close-knit community, comprised of indigenous neighbors and workers from around the world. Events unfold at a leisurely pace in this narrative that’s enriched by authentic details that make the time and place come alive. Readers discover that life in a mining town means surviving brutal winters, handling day-to-day chores in all seasons while still having fun, doing backbreaking labor, and finally, actually extracting the gold from the dirt. (Readers will learn more than they probably ever needed to know about how this is accomplished.) Life in a remote backwater also entails high excitement, such as the townspeople’s first-ever sighting of an airplane and bulldozer. Warmth and love pervade this novel, an Alaskan version of the Little House books, and characters are well-drawn. Some realistically sad and frightening events occur, but the novel ends on a happy, though wistful, note. Final art was not seen, though samples are charming and reinforce the Little House feel.

Some may find this overly sweet, but Bo is an endearing Pollyanna in a parka. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9351-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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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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