Readers who make it to the heartland with her will find the pleasure in Julia’s travels.

JULIA AND THE ART OF PRACTICAL TRAVEL

In 1968, after Julia’s aunt Constance is forced to sell Windy Ridge, home to the aristocratic Lancasters since the American Revolution, to Tipsy von Lipp (nee Shirley Hicks), the two set off to find Julia’s mother, Rosemary, who traded pearls for love beads three years earlier.

Julia brings her Brownie camera, and with Lancaster heirlooms—oriental carpets, silver tea service—in steamer trunks, one even lashed to the roof of the station wagon, they drive to Manhattan to stay with Tipsy at her invitation while Aunt Constance combs Greenwich Village searching for Rosemary. Stuck in the suffocating apartment with gloating, vulgar Tipsy, Julia’s inspired to play an elaborate practical joke that quickly ends their visit. The droll, meandering road trip across the United States unfolds in spare but telling detail that draws on Blume’s poignant imagery. But the inconsistent tone—early, broad farce gives way to pointed pathos—and jerky, episodic plot can jar. There’s little sense of the vivid 1960s in the text or Julia’s generic photos. Ridiculing silly Tipsy, a shrill hayseed who’s never seen an oyster fork (how many young readers have?), makes Julia seem heartless—a preteen Eloise. The urban snobbery has a chilling effect. The liveliest, most evocative scenes are those far from civilization and its discontents; it’s in the lonely, arid Texas and Nevada landscapes that the characters come close.

Readers who make it to the heartland with her will find the pleasure in Julia’s travels. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75282-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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