A new hero’s fantastic and fantastical debut—her next appearance can’t come soon enough.

PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE RIVER OF TEARS

From the Paola Santiago series , Vol. 1

A 12-year-old girl must leave behind her preconceived notions of what is real if she wants to save her missing friend.

Paola Santiago looks forward to summer days filled with daydreaming and “ponder[ing] algae or other fuel experiments” with her best friends, Dante and Emma, down at the riverbanks. Her mother has forbidden Pao from hanging out down at the Gila River, but Pao disregards her advice, as most of her mom’s warnings include folkloric elements, like the fabled La Llorona. Pao, a self-professed scientist, cannot fathom believing in things like ghosts that have “no scientific basis to them.” That is, until Pao and Dante wait in vain for Emma to show up at the river. Emma’s disappearance, along with those of many other young people in the area, leads Pao and Dante on a journey that will shatter the laws of physics and other scientific truths Pao holds dear. As the duo searches for Emma, they will encounter lands and creatures that Pao held to be fictitious, along with her mother’s beliefs, which Pao has often pushed away along with the connection to her Mexican ancestry. Mejia’s writing is fast-paced and engaging, as the colorful imagery places readers in Southwestern cacti fields and in the tumultuous mindset of an insecure 12-year-old. For all its exploration of Pao’s internal landscape, there is action aplenty. Dante is Latinx, like Pao; Emma is White.

A new hero’s fantastic and fantastical debut—her next appearance can’t come soon enough. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-04917-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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