Flashy and engaging with emotional depth—a slam-dunk thrill.


This graphic-novel adaptation of Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal winner offers powerful visuals to an already-cherished narrative of teenage black boys navigating the game of life.

The tale follows a year in the life of the Bell family, with Chuck “Da Man” Bell at the helm as he teaches his twin sons, Josh and Jordan, how to follow in his star-studded footsteps. Josh “Filthy McNasty” Bell takes the lead in narration, providing readers with in-depth court play-by-play as he deals with the growing pains of adolescence, balancing brotherhood and his own becoming. Myriad poetic forms appear throughout. A portion embrace rhyme, with a hint of old-school flow recalling hip-hop’s golden era. Veteran comics illustrator Anyabwile brings an expansive range of black-boy emotional expressiveness to the page, accompanied by a striking attention to detail and pop-cultural reference. Just check the fresh barber lines on display or the true-to-life illustrations of beloved athletes and musicians such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and more. Eschewing the traditional paneled look of the graphic-novel form creates a dynamic flow between the scenes. These are sectioned out into basketball-appropriate quarters and dotted with Chuck’s inspirational Basketball Rules, such as this excerpt of No. 3: “The sky is your limit, sons. Always shoot for the sun and you will SHINE.” These messages grow ever more resonant as readers approach the climax of this heartwarming story.

Flashy and engaging with emotional depth—a slam-dunk thrill. (Graphic fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-96001-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.


In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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


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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