cover image And Then, Boom!

And Then, Boom!

Lisa Fipps. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-40632-8

Fipps (Starfish) depicts situations of abuse, financial precarity, houselessness, and hope through easy-to-read verse in this elucidating work. Eleven-year-old Joseph Oak loves superhero comics and his British-born Grandmum, whose “arms are like Captain America’s shield,/ protecting me,/ defending me.” In contrast, he views his mother as Thanos, “destroyer of worlds”; when she gets “The Itch” and leaves, consequences of her legal troubles result in Joe and Grandmum living in their car. Joe’s pragmatic voice explains, “I think I know a lot of things/ kids shouldn’t/ have/ to know” about how much his grandmother makes cleaning buildings and what their U.S. government–provided benefits cover (and don’t). Things look up when they find an affordable mobile home, but then Grandmum starts feeling sick. Writing from personal experience, as discussed in a foreword, Fipps employs resonant verse to portray Joe’s bleak reality as well as the bright spots he experiences due to the kindness of his best friends, who help him get food, and his teacher, who advocates for change in the school’s free meal system and opens a food and clothing pantry for students in need. Joe is depicted as white on the cover; other characters cue as racially diverse. Ages 10–up. Agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. (May)