JUST CALL ME STUPID

Patrick's problem with reading stems from the trauma of his long-absent father calling him ``Stupid'' and locking him in a closet. By fifth grade, his panic when confronted with the printed word has been reinforced by insensitive teachers, by a bully who taunts him, and by his own failures. Then luck provides two friends—a fine teacher (Mrs. Romero) and a neighbor/classmate. What begins as a shy chess game on the outdoor board where Patrick has been playing against himself becomes real rapport when Celina, brimming with contagious enthusiasm, reads him The Sword and the Stone. Patrick's fright when she suggests he take a turn is a brief setback; but in time he reciprocates by telling her a story that she records and, without telling him, submits to a contest. It wins, but Patrick's first response is fury—at her betrayal and his continued inability to read. Still, his story's success and the confidence of Celina, Mrs. Romero, and his hard-working mother help Patrick begin to find his own honorable way out of his terror and unlock the pleasures of books. Though rather implausibly wise and empathetic, Mrs. Romero and Celina are likable, while the sabotaging of Patrick's real gifts by his long-held fears—and his difficult decision to pull his own metaphorical sword from its stone—are subtly portrayed. Lively and well plotted, with funny—as well as touching—scenes and a satisfyingly upbeat ending. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8234-1045-5

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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