A glowing, heartfelt addition to the middle-grade LGBTQ genre.

REDWOOD AND PONYTAIL

Two middle school girls grapple with their blossoming feelings for each other in this verse novel.

Tam is a volleyball player sometimes mistaken for a boy. Kate is a popular cheerleader. When they notice each other at seventh grade registration, Tam sees a walking cliché with a perfect ponytail, while Kate sees a girl as “tall as a palm tree.” When they meet face to face, they strike an immediate rapport. Soon the two are having lunch together every day and linking pinkies in the halls. As they grow closer, each finds herself questioning who she thought she was. Tam doesn’t know how she fits into Kate’s seemingly perfect world. Kate, who has spent her life trying to live up to her shallow, perfectionist mother’s expectations, wants to go her own way, a process that includes deciding whether or not to admit her feelings for Tam. Tam and Kate share the first-person narration, which keenly conveys each girl’s joys and inner turmoil. The dual narratives play off of each other, sometimes in a call-and-response manner that clearly communicates the shyness, awkwardness, and confusion of first love. A trio of unseen watchers, identified as Alex, Alyx, and Alexx, collectively represent the observant school-hallway bystanders, providing commentary and speculation in the manner of a Greek chorus. Their verses can be read vertically or horizontally, resulting in multiple meanings. Characters are racially ambiguous.

A glowing, heartfelt addition to the middle-grade LGBTQ genre. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7288-0

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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