This middle-grade read is heartfelt, but nostalgia that’s a bit too on the nose makes it hard to follow

MY LIFE AS AN ICE CREAM SANDWICH

Twelve-year-old aspiring astronaut Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman is lonely and homesick in New York.

When trouble hits her family like an asteroid, Ebony-Grace, aka Cadet E-Grace Starfleet, is forced to leave her beloved grandfather and her hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, to spend a week with her father in Harlem, New York—or as she calls it, “No Joke City.” Determined to ignore what she calls the “Sonic Boom,” New York’s hip-hop revolution in the early 1980s, Ebony-Grace rejects the people, music, and movements of Harlem, instead blasting off in her mind aboard the Mothership Uhura to save her grandfather, Capt. Fleet. Stuck, Ebony-Grace works to navigate a new frontier where she is teased and called “crazy” because of her imaginative intergalactic adventures. Ostracized as a flava-less, “plain ol’ ice cream sandwich! Chocolate on the outside, vanilla on the inside,” Ebony-Grace tries her best to be “regular and normal,” but her outer-space imaginings are the only things that keep her grounded. The design includes images that sho nuff bring the ’80s alive: comic-strip panels, inverted Star Wars scripting, and onomatopoeic graffiti-esque words. Unfortunately, these serve to interrupt an already-crowded narrative as readers hyperjump between Ebony-Grace’s imagination and the movement of life in the real world, transmitted via news reports and subway memorials.

This middle-grade read is heartfelt, but nostalgia that’s a bit too on the nose makes it hard to follow . (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18735-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist.

WISHED

From the Fairy Tale Reform School series , Vol. 5

With Rumpelstiltskin and his band of villains still on the loose, the students and staff of Fairy Tale Reform School are on high alert as they prepare for the next attack.

Classes are devoted to teaching battle techniques and conjuring new weapons, which narrator Gilly finds preferable to learning history or manners. But Maxine, her ogress friend, has had it with all the doom and gloom. The last straw is when the agenda at the Royal Lady-in-Waiting meeting is changed from “How to Plan the Perfect Fairy Garden Party” to designing flying rocks and creating flower darts. While on a class field trip to the village to investigate their future careers, Maxine finds a magic lamp housing a genie named Darlene. Her wish that everyone be happy works a little too well. War preparations are put on hold as the school fills with flowers, laughter, and plans for a musical production. But when Gilly is tapped to fill in for the local chief of the dwarf police, things really take a turn for the worse. The students, including fairies, ogres, and the part-human/part-beast offspring of Beauty and the ex-Beast, focus on friendship and supporting one another in spite of their differences. Humility, forgiveness, and loyalty are also highly regarded in the FTRS community. Human Gilly is white, but there is racial as well as species diversity at FTRS.

An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5167-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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