THE INSIDERS

When his mom lands a new job, Héctor Muñoz leaves San Francisco—and his best friends and beloved neighborhood—for a town near Sacramento.

The Mexican American 12-year-old starts Orangevale Middle School with optimism, hopeful that new friends will appreciate his flair for fashion and confident that he will find fellow musical theater–obsessed peers. His optimism wanes when he finds out there is no drama club or theater program; Ms. Heath, the head of school security, seems to have targeted him for harsh discipline; and the Table of Misfits, a ragtag group of outsiders, is the only place for him to sit at lunch. Matters get worse when Mike, a relentlessly homophobic bully, and his so-called Minions target Héctor. When a janitor’s closet magically appears whenever and wherever Héctor most needs to hide, he finds a respite from the bullying. The room not only offers him safety, it also connects him to other outsiders who find their ways there from their own schools when they need escape: Black and Chinese Juliana from South Carolina and Filipino and White Sal from Arizona. With compassion and humor, Oshiro creates a fantastical scenario that holds deeper implications for three outsiders who face struggles as queer and biracial youths. Reading this heartwarming blend of realistic fiction and fantasy, young people will appreciate Héctor’s brave and earnest quest for happiness and belonging set among a richly diverse cast of characters.

Sweet and full of heart. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300810-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: yesterday

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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