PINE ISLAND HOME

Four orphaned girls try to figure out how to get along on their own.

When a relative is found to take them in after their missionary parents’ sudden deaths by tsunami, the McCready sisters move from Borneo to British Columbia only to discover that Great-Aunt Martha has died unexpectedly. However, Martha has left her paperwork in good order, registered the children at the local schools, and stocked her house with food and beds. Fourteen-year-old Fiona must keep everyone together and avoid alerting social services. The school principal is sympathetic and supportive. The cranky neighbor, Al, a drinker who lets fly the occasional oath and whose trailer home is in disarray, reluctantly agrees to pretend to be the girls’ guardian. They think of him as the Waste Troll, based on a disparaging comment by the McCreadys’ garden-gnome–look-alike lawyer. While Marlin, 12, discovers her affinity and talent for cooking and baking, Natasha, 10, becomes a bird-watcher, and Charlie, 8 and a worrier, befriends Al before any of the others. The default white is assumed. Horvath, ever respectful of the inner lives of children, has a way of incorporating moments of sweet hilarity into an account that makes the girls’ situation seem plausible. She doesn’t stint on vocabulary or on sophisticated observations, yet her narrative arc is direct and extraordinarily satisfying, with its emphasis on competence and survival of the domestic, familial, and emotional sort.

Delightful. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4785-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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