A readable but essentially inconsequential addition to Clements’ oeuvre.

THE FRIENDSHIP WAR

Clements draws on his memory of classroom fads for this newest exploration of sixth-grade politics.

Grace likes to collect things. When her grandfather takes her around the old New England mill he’s bought, she decides to add the dozens of boxes of buttons she finds there to her already-cluttered room. “I have a theory about why I collect so many things,” Grace adds intriguingly, but this motivation is never satisfyingly revealed. Described as “pretty,” she prefers scientific observation to trips to the mall and is slowly realizing the ways that her best friend, Ellie, who’s also “pretty,” makes her feel inadequate and unsupported. When Grace brings a handful of buttons to school as part of a social studies unit on the Industrial Revolution, other kids become inexplicably fascinated by them, and soon their school is overcome by a button craze reminiscent of the 17th-century Dutch tulip bubble or, more recently, Pogs. As trading and hoarding reach a fever pitch, Grace tries to navigate the destruction of one friendship, the start of another, and her own place in the middle school hierarchy. The button craze keeps the story tripping along, but somewhat broad characterizations and relatively low stakes—not to mention a perfectly neat ending—do not. Grace goes to an Illinois school where no one is identified racially, but all faces on the cover present white.

A readable but essentially inconsequential addition to Clements’ oeuvre. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55759-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more