A well-meaning but belabored recognition of introverts, artists, and activists.

HERE IN THE REAL WORLD

An introverted boy fights to save an empty lot from auction.

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Ware can’t wait to spend the Florida summer with his grandmother, enjoying “long hours free and alone.” Other adults—including his overprotective, hyperefficient mother and sports-loving father—discourage his being “off in his own world.” But when his grandmother takes a fall, he must trade privacy for “Meaningful Social Interaction” in the Summer Rec program. He finds sanctuary in nearby church ruins, where he meets cynical, secretive Jolene and bird activist Ashley. When the property is slated for auction, medieval-history buff Ware invokes the “Knights’ Code”—a feminist but nonetheless romanticized version of the code of chivalry—resolving to “be always the champion of the Right and the Good” and defend their refuge. Victory, however, takes unexpected forms. Though Pennypacker’s exploration of what “fairness” means is thought-provoking, one-dimensional characterization weakens such powerful themes as abuse, self-advocacy, and self-acceptance. Tough-but-wounded Jolene is little more than a foil for the nearly angelic Ware, whose acute empathy even perceives a cut plant’s “cry of betrayal.” (The intense pain his empathy causes him goes unexamined.) Though introverted or sensitive kids may recognize Ware’s poignant struggles to connect with his parents, his heavy-handed portrayal—which his uncle folds neatly into the sensitive-artist trope—blunts some emotional impact. Most characters, including the kids, appear white; a supportive grocer is Greek.

A well-meaning but belabored recognition of introverts, artists, and activists. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269895-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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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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