cover image Sardines


Sashi Kaufman. Quill Tree, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-299561-2

Lucas is grieving the death of his “all-star kid” older brother when he starts middle school, and he misses his mother, who left home with no explanation three weeks back. To make things worse, his distraught father insists that Lucas go to afterschool care instead of coming home to Oak Hill Trailer Park in the afternoons. But Teen Club, as it is called, turns out to be the best part of Lucas’s days after he bonds with his fellow attendees: Cat, a basketball player who yearns to cut her hair; amiable Robbie, who experiences bullying; Anna, one of the few brown-skinned students in their small Maine town, who longs for her mother’s attention; and formally spoken new kid Finn. During the program’s rec time, the group has adventures outside, playing games of Sardines, building a tree fort, and collecting acorn caps in jars—when each kid fills their jar, the group collaborates on granting their wish. Tracing a growing adolescent bond through an extended metaphor about finding community, Kaufman (The Other Way Around) writes fresh and relatable characters and a smoothly concocted plot that provides clever, collaborative answers to seemingly unsolvable conflicts. Ages 8–12. Agent: Lauren MacLeod, Strothman Agency. (Oct.)