For summer reading or dreaming of summer, this satisfying sequel can be a good starting point for middle-grade readers.

HUNTER MORAN HANGS OUT

From the Hunter Moran series , Vol. 2

Rising sixth-graders Hunter and Zack make the most of the last four days of their summer vacation, attempting to stave off a kidnapping, performing rescues and welcoming yet another sibling.

Continuing the TV-fueled adventures begun at the start of their summer and chronicled in Hunter Moran Saves the Universe (2012), the twins leave a surprising trail of destruction at summer’s end. They trample their father’s newly seeded lawn and try to cover the damage with an enormous rock they claim is a coyote’s gravestone. They take lumber and nails intended for a workroom to build a watchtower high in a tree. They break into basements, and Hunter falls out a second-story window. They survive near-drowning in the pond in Werewolf Woods. As reported by Hunter in a breathless first-person, present-tense narration, the chaos in the Moran household sometimes seems a little far-fetched, but it can be excused by the arrival of K.G., the new baby and seventh child (whose real name is not “Killer Godzilla”). Throughout the book, the boys continue to feed and replenish the worm farm they’ve established in a kitchen-cabinet drawer, a running joke that seems likely to offer possibilities for more sequels.

For summer reading or dreaming of summer, this satisfying sequel can be a good starting point for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2859-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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