Well-drawn characters, an original setting, and a satisfying resolution are the ingredients that make this carefully crafted...

THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE

Will bravery, kindness, and perceptiveness be enough to earn 12-year-old orphan Mary Hayes a permanent home with Madame Zolotaya, the elderly woman who rescues her from a terrible Buffalo orphanage?

Even if readers don't know Baba Yaga, they will probably recognize that Mary’s savior is a witch whose delicious meals are designed to fatten her up for the oven. “I am no one's mother” the wrinkled old woman says. Can she become one? is the underlying question, and the answer will be heartwarming to any reader. Madame Z lives in the woods outside Iris, a town full of people who profess to be masters of the occult: “con artists, fakes, and charlatans” she calls them. But there is real magic there, too, and Mary and her new friend, Jacob Kagan, son of a traveling illusionist, are determined to find it to ensure that they both will have permanent homes. There is suspense throughout and heart-stopping moments early on to draw readers into this immensely satisfying story. Woven into the traditional third-person narrative are intriguing details about magicians’ secrets and mouthwatering descriptions of Russian foods: blini, mushroom and potato dumplings, kulich with farmer’s cheese, and rye bread with holodetz, this last eaten on a peekneek.

Well-drawn characters, an original setting, and a satisfying resolution are the ingredients that make this carefully crafted middle-grade adventure a highly rewarding read. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3499-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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A natural for middle school classrooms and libraries, this strong collection should find eager readers.

FLYING LESSONS & OTHER STORIES

Edited by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Oh, a collection of short stories that embraces a wide cultural spectrum of authorship.

Readers feel the angst that comes with getting to know the cool new California girl at a Pennsylvania school in Tim Federle’s “Secret Samantha,” narrated by gender-nonconforming Sam. They’ll thrill to Grace Lin’s “The Difficult Path,” the tale of a young Chinese servant girl who is captured by pirates, who save her from an arranged marriage to a horrible young boy from a wealthy family. Kwame Alexander contributes a short story in verse about a young Star Wars geek who is head over heels with the school's prettiest girl. Perhaps most poignantly, there is “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” about a boy whose basketball-star father gives his wheelchair basketball team some crucial pointers, from Walter Dean Myers. These stories and others—from Matt de la Peña, Meg Medina, Kelly J. Baptist, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Soman Chainani—ably contain universal themes: friendship, sibling rivalry, parental embarrassment, first crushes, and the trials and challenges that school can bring. Thumbnail biographies of the contributors and an introduction to the genesis and work of We Need Diverse Books round out the volume.

A natural for middle school classrooms and libraries, this strong collection should find eager readers. (Anthology. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93459-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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