NEXT YEAR

An early adolescent boy who lives with his parents on their farm during the Dust Bowl tells his story in this picture book.

In 1935, Calvin, the white narrator, is 12. He lives with Ma and Dad (both also white) on a farm on a prairie that has become, because of the four-year drought, a land of starving cattle, withered crops, and dust storms. Calvin’s father, discouraged but clinging to hope, tells him, “It’s gonna be better next year.” But it doesn’t get better for four more years—until 1939—when the rains finally come. By then Calvin’s parents have had enough, and to Calvin’s dismay, they pack up and leave. Now 16 and realizing, “I love what I’ve hated for so long,” Calvin stays behind to farm the land in the more sustainable ways he has learned about during the drought. Vander Zee’s poetic narrative, with its precise distillation and keen perception, brings the poverty and heartbreak of this time powerfully forward, while the story’s undercurrent of perseverance, strength of character, and, ultimately, respect and stewardship of the land gives it hope. Kelley’s magnificent, colorful, black-outlined illustrations flawlessly convey the grandeur of the land as well as the awfulness of that time. The book’s overall design is stellar, each page a visual tour de force, balancing white space, words, and illustration.

Stunning. (author’s note) (Picture book. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56846-282-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.

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WONDER

After being home-schooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle school life when he looks so different from everyone else?

Auggie has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies he was born with, but he still has a face that has earned him such cruel nicknames as Freak, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out and Lizard face. Though “his features look like they’ve been melted, like the drippings on a candle” and he’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him, he’s an engaging boy who feels pretty ordinary inside. He’s smart, funny, kind and brave, but his father says that having Auggie attend Beecher Prep would be like sending “a lamb to the slaughter.” Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too.

A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86902-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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

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  • 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

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