A rich, complex, deftly crafted tale of friendship, creativity, and being true to oneself.

AMBER & CLAY

An artistic enslaved boy, “common as clay,” and a free-spirited girl, “precious as amber,” become “linked together by the gods” in this drama of ancient Greece.

After his mother, Thratta, is sold, neglected, red-haired Rhaskos, 5, works in the stables of a wealthy household in Thessaly. Eventually sold to a potter in Athens, Rhaskos learns the trade, expands his drawing skills, and becomes friends with the philosopher Sokrates, who urges him to be his “own master.” Raised in a privileged Athens home, wild, brown-skinned Melisto is actively spurned by her mother and prefers her nurse, Thratta. After being sent away to serve the goddess Artemis, 10-year-old Melisto is killed by lightning and Thratta places a binding spell on her ghost, compelling her to find Rhaskos and set him free, thus pulling their stories together. Borrowing elements from classical Greek drama, the tale unfolds primarily in verse through alternating voices, including those of manipulative gods and goddesses as well as real and fictional secondary characters whose varied perspectives add vitality and momentum. Lyrically descriptive, surprisingly contemporary in feel, and laced with allusions to Greek mythology, history, and epic stories, the narrative offers a realistically diverse, colorful portrait of an ancient Greece in which slavery and warfare were prevalent. Black-and-white illustrations of archaeological artifacts add insight and depth to this meticulously researched story.

A rich, complex, deftly crafted tale of friendship, creativity, and being true to oneself. (cast of characters, author's notes, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0122-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

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?

more