The perfect anchor leg for a well-run literary relay

LU

From the Track series , Vol. 4

A middle-grade runner soars over obstacles to shine as a leader for his team and family.

In this final addition to Reynolds’ Track series, the titular, self-described “fine-o albino” is nervous, maybe a little scared, about the many changes occurring during the week leading to the championships for the Defenders. An unexpected pregnancy announcement from his parents and the challenge of waltzing to a win in his new event, hurdles, among other things, keep Lu’s emotions, and feet, racing. Reynolds’ seamless integration of Lu’s story into his series shows him to be a master of temporal structure, highlighting individual and collective growth of his four protagonists over one season. The circularity of his similes in describing the generations of teasing endured by Lu’s father, who stuttered as a child (“You sound like a choking Chihuahua”), by Lu, bullied due to his albinism (“Yo, you look like a cotton ball dipped in white paint”), and even by a bully Lu takes down (“Yo, Kelvin, you smell like your blood ain’t blood. It’s trash juice pumping through your things”) emphasizes the triumph of healing and unity in the book’s surprising ending. New and returning characters help to create tension and smooth transitions, but Lu pulls ahead as the catalyst for much of the relational shifts between adults and kids, showcasing children’s power to effect true communal change.

The perfect anchor leg for a well-run literary relay . (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5024-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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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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