TOO BRIGHT TO SEE

In the wake of his uncle’s death, a transgender boy on the cusp of middle school grapples with grief, friendship, and identity.

Bug lives in a haunted house, but the ghosts of long ago never bothered him before this summer. Then Uncle Roderick, who was gay, passed away, and now the house feels different with just Bug and his mom left. Usually he would spend a month away at camp, the only place he feels connected to a group, but money is tight this year. When a ghost begins following Bug and his dreams turn to nightmares, he searches for answers about who is haunting him and why. As the ghostly mystery unfolds over the course of the summer, Bug struggles with new tension with his best friend, Moira, a girl whose interest in the duo’s reinventing themselves in middle school feels overwhelming and full of expectations he doesn’t know how to meet. This coming-of-age and coming-out story takes a needed departure from other stories about transgender youth by illuminating the perspective of a young person who does not initially know how to identify his discomfort. The narrative pushes against gendered stereotypes about interests like sports and makeup, challenging restricting ideas about gender and self-expression. A chilling, suspenseful ghost story balances the intimate, introspective narrative style. Most of the characters are White, including Bug, his family, and Moira.

Haunting and healing. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11115-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Fans of the series will be delighted.

CLASH

From the Click series , Vol. 4

Can Olive stay positive when a social-climbing bully moves to town?

In her fourth adventure, sixth grader Olive Branche is on top of the world until new girl Natasha begins to encroach on her friendships, slowly and methodically freezing her out of her many different social circles. Relentlessly optimistic Olive tries to stay genial despite Nat’s overt jibes, but when Nat takes it to a new level and ruins Olive’s carefully planned Halloween party, Olive finally confronts her. When Nat finds herself consequently ostracized, empathetic Olive has a change of heart and extends her an olive branch (groan). Olive and Nat’s relationship is highly idealized, bordering almost on wish fulfillment; Nat’s backstory offers some explanation for her behavior, but she is accepted back into the fold more easily than may seem realistic. Olive’s appeal is in her unceasing Pollyanna-like sunniness and her ability to be accommodating and find the best in every situation. Though consistent in tone with its predecessors, in this entry Olive does have some moments of anger (albeit quickly reconciled); her portrayal here is the most human she’s been throughout the series. Although this is the fourth installment, each volume is mostly self-contained, making this equally accessible for established and new readers. Olive and Nat read as White; the supporting cast is inclusive and diverse.

Fans of the series will be delighted. (Halloween costume craft ideas, author Q&A) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-24220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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An uplifting sequel told with heart and humor.

MERCI SUÁREZ CAN'T DANCE

Merci returns for another year of challenges and triumphs at home and at Seaward Pines Academy.

Life is a little different for Merci Suárez in seventh grade. Her older brother, Roli, is off at college; her grandfather Lolo’s Alzheimer’s is more pronounced; and she has to regularly babysit her Tía Inés’ spirited young twins. Merci is also assigned to manage the school store with math whiz Wilson Bellevue, a quiet classmate who she realizes is not obnoxious like other boys. When Merci and Wilson are expected to sell tickets to the Valentine’s Day Heart Ball, she must interact with a slightly-less-mean Edna Santos, who’s running the dance and unexpectedly getting closer to Hannah, one of Merci’s best friends. Medina continues to tenderly explore issues such as multigenerational immigrant family dynamics, managing the responsibilities of home and school, and learning how to navigate changing friendships and first crushes. Merci’s maturity and growth are as engaging and compelling as they were in the author’s Newbery Medal winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018). The cast is broadly diverse; Merci and her family are Cuban American, Edna is Dominican, and Creole and Cajun Wilson has a physical disability.

An uplifting sequel told with heart and humor. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9050-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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