Darius is a self-described “fractional” Iranian; his mom from Iran, his dad a white “ubermensch.” Darius loves tea and Star Trek it.with equal passion. Watching episodes of “The Next Generation” is one of the few ways he and his dad connect anymore. Otherwise, he feels judged—for his lack of friends, for being overweight, for being so sensitive, for not standing up to bullies in high school—and although both he and his dad take medication for depression, they don’t talk about it.
A young girl admires the rainbow of khimars in her mother’s closet. “Some have tassels. Some have beads. Some have sparkly things all over.” Her mother wears one every day, tucking her hair under the scarf before she leaves the house. On this day, the little girl decides to put one on too, choosing her favorite color, yellow.
“I want each of you to say to the other: I will harbor you.” Eleven-year-old Haley’s teacher, Ms. Laverne, challenges Haley and her classmates to be there for one another. But how do you become someone’s harbor? The final hour of school each week, Ms. Laverne leaves Haley and her five classmates alone to talk, trusting them to figure it out.
Teenage Ronney’s small Indiana town has been overrun by wild animals released from a private zoo, the owner’s last act before committing suicide by gun. Ten-year-old Sam, a friend of Ronney’s little sister, Mina, is convinced Ronney can find his older brother, who ran away.
“His skin’s so soft. / His hair’s so fine. / “I know my numbers / up to nine.” A board book brimming with warmth offers a fresh, lively, relatable look at family change. Rhyming couplets pair third-person statements in the voice of an adult (who appears to be the mom) making observations about the new baby in the family to an older sibling, and first-person statements in the voice of the older child, who is eager to tout their own accomplishments.
Twelve-year-old Charlotte’s Dad is hospitalized and she’s scared to visit him. Meanwhile, her best friend wants to move up in the social hierarchy at school and is willing to belittle Charlotte to do so. Eleven-year-old Ben is surprised and then furious when his parents announce they’re divorcing. He throws himself into running for student council treasurer, although his earnest campaign is destined to fail. Both smart and precocious, Charlotte and Ben live in separate cities. Their connection to each other is through an online word game and the online chatting that has grown around their play.
Penelope Rex is nervous about starting school, but she’s prepared: She’s got a new backpack with ponies on it (she loves ponies–they’re delicious), and 300 tuna sandwiches packed for lunch. But she is not prepared when she walks into her classroom and discovers the other students are all children. “So she ate them. Because children are delicious.” She spits them back up after being yelled at by her teacher, but it isn’t easy to make friends after that.
Zuri is second-oldest of five sisters in the Dominican-Haitian-American Benitez family. After the wealthy Darcys move into a renovated brownstone across the street from the Benitz’s apartment building in Bushwick, Zuri’s older sister, Janae, and friendly Ainsley Darcy fall hard for each other, but Zuri finds Darius Darcy to be arrogant and aloof. Once she’s thrown together with him, however, she begins to see there’s more to Darius.
It’s been over five years since Livy, now almost 11, last visited her grandmother in Australia. Her grandmother is disappointed that Livy doesn’t remember much from that earlier trip. It’s even more disappointing to Bob, whom Livy finds in the closet of her mother’s childhood bedroom. A tattered chicken suit disguise 5-year old Livy made can’t hide the fact that Bob’s a small green creature, neither human nor fowl.
Raphael loves his friend Jerome, who holds his hand and chooses him for a buddy on field trips. Jerome, who is fun to be with and makes Raphael feel safe. Raphael’s parents think he talks and thinks too much about Jerome. “Now that’s enough,” says his dad.