Rugged cross-country adventure with a diverse cast of two- and four-legged fellow travelers and a sturdy main character who...

THE WOLF WILDER

A young Russian who has known more wolves in her life than people sets out to rescue her mother from a czarist prison.

In a remote area not far from St. Petersburg, 12-year-old Feodora, “a dark and stormy girl,” and her strong mother, Marina Petrovich, take wolves that have grown too dangerous for the aristocratic households in which they have been raised from captured cubs and train them to live on their own in the wild. Feo’s idyll comes to a sudden end when brutal, sadistic Gen. Mikail Rakov, declaring that wolves are all vermin, descends to burn the cabin and hustle her mother off to Kresty Prison in the city. Off she sets on a seemingly quixotic rescue, with beloved semiferal charges Black, White, and Gray (“a bunch of the most beautiful criminals”), a newly born wolf pup, 13-year-old army deserter Ilya, and growing bands of children and disaffected villagers in her wake. Though historical events up to and including the February Revolution take place in the background, Feo’s harrowing journey is the story’s focus. Through bitter storms and ambushes, terror and tragedy, an unrelenting sense of purpose lightened with flashes of humor—“Black had eaten three toes, which, technically, had belonged to an English lord”—carries Feo and her allies to a decisive confrontation with Rakov.

Rugged cross-country adventure with a diverse cast of two- and four-legged fellow travelers and a sturdy main character who is more than a little “wilded” herself. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1942-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story.

SWIM TEAM

Leaving Brooklyn behind, Black math-whiz and puzzle lover Bree starts a new life in Florida, where she’ll be tossed into the deep end in more ways than one. Keeping her head above water may be the trickiest puzzle yet.

While her dad is busy working and training in IT, Bree struggles at first to settle into Enith Brigitha Middle School, largely due to the school’s preoccupation with swimming—from the accomplishments of its namesake, a Black Olympian from Curaçao, to its near victory at the state swimming championships. But Bree can’t swim. To illustrate her anxiety around this fact, the graphic novel’s bright colors give way to gray thought bubbles with thick, darkened outlines expressing Bree’s deepest fears and doubts. This poignant visual crowds some panels just as anxious feelings can crowd the thoughts of otherwise star students like Bree. Ultimately, learning to swim turns out to be easy enough with the help of a kind older neighbor—a Black woman with a competitive swimming past of her own as well as a rich and bittersweet understanding of Black Americans’ relationship with swimming—who explains to Bree how racist obstacles of the past can become collective anxiety in the present. To her surprise, Bree, with her newfound water skills, eventually finds herself on the school’s swim team, navigating competition, her anxiety, and new, meaningful relationships.

Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-305677-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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