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Redwood and Ponytail

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Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in ways they did not anticipate.


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Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in ways they did not anticipate.

30 review for Redwood and Ponytail

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kate ☀️ Olson

    (free review copy via @kidlitexchange ) I have loved every book K.A. Holt has written, but this one is by far my favorite. The verse just pops off the page and the story of first love between two very different 7th grade girls is just so vibrant and authentic. The format of side-by-side alternating verse on most pages (narrated by the two girls) with the "Greek chorus" of other students adding in their 2 cents is just so compelling. I was drawn in emotionally and was instantly rooting for this r (free review copy via @kidlitexchange ) I have loved every book K.A. Holt has written, but this one is by far my favorite. The verse just pops off the page and the story of first love between two very different 7th grade girls is just so vibrant and authentic. The format of side-by-side alternating verse on most pages (narrated by the two girls) with the "Greek chorus" of other students adding in their 2 cents is just so compelling. I was drawn in emotionally and was instantly rooting for this romance. Highly recommended for grades 5-8. . CONTENT NOTE: There is some minor homophobia encountered by one of the characters, but I believe the story arc of overcoming societal and parental expectations is overall inspiring for young readers. This is an #ownvoices story with a moving personal note from the author in the Acknowledgments at the end of the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ivy

    https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com... “And when she giggles I see the brownie stuck to her teeth and it looks so sweet and gross my insides get warm and melty, a gross undercooked brownie of their own.” Overall, Redwood & Ponytail is a brilliant (as in bright) novel from an incredibly gifted author. The story, while not always being super exciting, was enjoyable and kind, which is all I need from a book nowadays. This shortish and certainly sweetish book is perfect for those looking for a different kind of middle grade/YA nov/>“And https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com... “And when she giggles I see the brownie stuck to her teeth and it looks so sweet and gross my insides get warm and melty, a gross undercooked brownie of their own.” Overall, Redwood & Ponytail is a brilliant (as in bright) novel from an incredibly gifted author. The story, while not always being super exciting, was enjoyable and kind, which is all I need from a book nowadays. This shortish and certainly sweetish book is perfect for those looking for a different kind of middle grade/YA novel and for those who aren’t looking for it, because they really should be. Rating: five Muppet voices/five For fans of: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Wil Walton, Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee Favorite quotes: - “She laughs again and it makes me feel light and bright. I would do anything, say anything to hear her laugh all night.” - “And everything smells good. Like love and books and people and family. Like dinner and plants and cats and Tam.” - “It makes me think that if something feels so perfectly right like this, if the universe can hold us in its hands like this, then of course nothing’s weird or wrong or different.” Full interview: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com... Ivy: What do you want kids or teens to get out of reading Redwood & Ponytail? KA: I think mostly what I want… I want the twelve-year-old girls who read it to think “Oh, I’m not a weirdo” but I want everyone else to just read it like a story. The main points of the book are you’re growing up, you go to middle school and you have had all these friends and sometimes you drift apart, and you don’t really know why, and it’s not like you hate each other, you’re trying to figure it out, and it’s stressful, and everything’s changing, and you want to know where you fit in the world. And those kinds of things are universal. You don’t have to be a queer girl to feel that way, everybody feels that way. I want readers to understand that yes, it’s a book for queer girls, but it’s a book for everybody too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Bays

    Amazing. Necessary. Adorable. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book and it exceeded all my expectations! I can't wait for this book to be out in the world for young readers to get their hands on.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anniek

    I read an eARC of this novel through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I generally adore verse novels, so when I came across a sapphic verse novel in a blogpost by Dahlia Adler, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. So I was very excited when I saw I was able to read the eARC already. And while I did mostly enjoy this novel, I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. Let me start off by saying I think this middlegrade novel is amazing for the target audience: a v I read an eARC of this novel through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I generally adore verse novels, so when I came across a sapphic verse novel in a blogpost by Dahlia Adler, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. So I was very excited when I saw I was able to read the eARC already. And while I did mostly enjoy this novel, I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. Let me start off by saying I think this middlegrade novel is amazing for the target audience: a verse novel for kids about two girls questioning their sexuality and falling in love? YES! I really loved the writing style as well. It was fairly simplistic, so it won't be too difficult for middlegraders to follow, but it was beautifully written as well. I especially loved the addition of an actual choir, just like in ancient Greek poems! It's the story in itself I'm a little conflicted about though, because while I liked the characters, I didn't feel like they were distinctive enough a lot of the time. And Kate seemed to be a lot more fleshed out as a character than Tam was, even though both of them are main characters. Because of this, the story didn't resonate with me as much as I hoped it would. Rep: questioning/lesbian main characters, f/f romance, elderly lesbian couple. CWs: (internalized) homophobia

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ann Braden

    This book needs to be on every classroom bookshelf. I LOVED it and each time I visit a school I booktalk it and EVERY SINGLE TIME there is a student (sometimes a girl and sometimes a boy) who yelps in excitement when I explain what it's about. And often they are coming up to me afterwards to verify that it really IS about two girls who "like" each other like that. They are waiting anxiously for this book. I'm so excited for as many kids to get to read this as possible!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julie Jaeger

    Redwood and Ponytail is a beautiful book. Written in verse, this is a necessary tale of two girls falling in like and discovering themselves. It is a story about emotional connections, between the two girls, their families, and their friends. There are not enough books out there for this age covering this topic. K.A. Holt’s writing is just gorgeous, and this is a book that every middle school kid should read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    La Coccinelle

    It's been a while since I read a book this long. But, being that this is a novel in verse, it reads fairly quickly. Redwood and Ponytail is the story of two middle-school girls and their discovering of their sexuality. I enjoyed most of this story, but there are a couple of things that prevented me from really liking the book. First, there's the issue of the audience not quite matching the writing. I can see how the author was in a tricky place here. This is supposed to be about two girls d/>Redwood It's been a while since I read a book this long. But, being that this is a novel in verse, it reads fairly quickly. Redwood and Ponytail is the story of two middle-school girls and their discovering of their sexuality. I enjoyed most of this story, but there are a couple of things that prevented me from really liking the book. First, there's the issue of the audience not quite matching the writing. I can see how the author was in a tricky place here. This is supposed to be about two girls discovering they like girls. It's more likely for this to happen in middle school than in high school. However, the girls just don't read like 11- and 12-year-olds. Their internal thoughts are too adult, too poetic, and too wise. I kept having to remind myself that I was reading about young teenagers. One of the secondary characters, Becca, actually sounded more her age for most of the book (until the end when she started sounding overly mature, just like all the others). I'm not really sure if there's a way to fix this mismatch. Set the book in high school, and readers will wonder why Kate and Tam didn't realize they were gay earlier. Keep it in middle school, and readers will wonder why they speak like adult poets. It's a no-win situation. Second, and probably far more problematic, is the fact that (view spoiler)[one character publicly outs another. Based on the acknowledgments, it appears that the author herself is gay... and so I would've expected this to be handled better. Now, I'm not gay myself, but even I know that it's a huge no-no to out another person. I just don't think this part of the story was satisfactorily addressed. Sure, in this case, it moved the plot along, and perhaps the person being outed wasn't that bothered by it. But, in not addressing the violation, it sort of condones the action; I'd worry that kids (because that's the intended audience) might think it's okay to out each other in front of the rest of their peers. (hide spoiler)] Some stuff I do like about this book are the switching points of view (even though there are places where the author breaks her own established convention in the formatting, which was a bit confusing), as well as the inclusion of the "chorus". This almost seems Shakespearean, with classmates Alex, Alyx, and Alexx sharing their observations on the drama going down between Tam and Kate. And there is plenty of drama, driven by the colourful cast of characters. There's Kate's mom, an utterly superficial woman who seems to care more about her kitchen renovation than her daughter's happiness. There's Tam's mom, who's pretty much the opposite, almost smothering in her well-meaning attempts to be cool and relatable. There are Kate's cheerleading squad and her estranged sister. There are Tam's quirky neighbours and her best friend, Levi. All of these secondary characters, as well as the leads, drive the narrative forward, sometimes in interesting ways. I do kind of wish the storyline with Jill, Kate's sister, had a little more to it; that was one thread that sort of fizzled out when I thought it might be going somewhere more interesting. I think, perhaps, I'm not the audience for this. I'm not sure how the poetic language is going to play with the intended audience (middle-school girls), but if they can get something out of the story, that's great. (view spoiler)[I just wish the issue of outing gay friends had been better dealt with; that part alone makes me hesitant to recommend this one overall. (hide spoiler)] Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing a digital ARC.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Coudeville

    This book was better than I'd expected. To be honest, my eyes had kind of skipped over the "written in verse" part of the description so my first thought was "Oh, no." I'd only ever read one other book in verse and was kind of disappointed by it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The verse style really worked for the story, especially the back and forth moments between the girls. So yeah, I cute and fun read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    •°• gabs •°•

    this made me smile and it also made me cry (a lot) and i really wish i had books like this when i was little. i'm not giving it 5 stars because there is an outing scene which although doesn't have negative effects, it's still an outing and it is never questioned, so it makes me uncomfortable.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary Thomas

    Thank you to Chronicle books for an ARC at ALA! This sweet Middle grades book is about first crushes and figuring out who you are... I think it is going to be WILDLY popular with my students! Recommend for 4th/5th and up!! 🌈🌈🌟🌟📚📚

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shauna Yusko

    Yes!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christany

    I feel incoherent with emotion about this book. I mostly wish that I'd had a sibling as kind and loving as Kate's...the kind of sibling who would have your back when you try to tell your family who you are, but their answer is "No." The kind of sibling who would've told you they loved you no matter who you love, who would've said to be your true self no matter what anyone else says or thinks. The author said she wrote this book for her 12-year-old self, and for anyone else who needs ( I feel incoherent with emotion about this book. I mostly wish that I'd had a sibling as kind and loving as Kate's...the kind of sibling who would have your back when you try to tell your family who you are, but their answer is "No." The kind of sibling who would've told you they loved you no matter who you love, who would've said to be your true self no matter what anyone else says or thinks. The author said she wrote this book for her 12-year-old self, and for anyone else who needs (or needed) this book for their own 12-year-old self. I know that young me definitely needed books like this, and I'm grateful "Redwood and Ponytail" exists for queer kids now and queer kids to come to know they're not alone, and that they're okay, right now, just as they are. Even if someone dares to tell them "No."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel. Rating: 2.5 stars Rep: questioning MCs...f/f relationship. TW: a couple of instances of homophobia. First off, I think this is a "me not you" situation, judging by all the 4 and 5 star reviews I read, I would 100% recommend checking out those beforehand! In all honesty, I was going to DNF this book, but I really wanted to give it a chance and it definitely did pick up! The more I read the more invested I became, Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel. Rating: 2.5 stars Rep: questioning MCs...f/f relationship. TW: a couple of instances of homophobia. First off, I think this is a "me not you" situation, judging by all the 4 and 5 star reviews I read, I would 100% recommend checking out those beforehand! In all honesty, I was going to DNF this book, but I really wanted to give it a chance and it definitely did pick up! The more I read the more invested I became, but it took around 150 pages to get to that point, for me personally. I love novels told in verse, but this one was a little confusing and I didn't seem to jell with the writing style. I found that Kate and Tam (the main characters) didn't have very distinctive voices, if it wasn't for the name headers, I wouldn't have known who was speaking. Tam borderline outs Kate in front of all her friends, which I was really not happy with. Kate was questioning her sexuality, Tam had no right to do what she did. This is just one of the cases where I found myself frustrated with the characters. I know I am obviously not the target audience for this, it being a middle-grade novel, so maybe that's the problem. To end on a positive note, I honestly believe that this is a very unique, important novel. I mean, a middle-grade book told in verse with LGBTQ+ characters? I really respect that, we need more of these for sure.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Author K.A. Holt hits it out of the ballpark with this title. Middle grade readers who have enjoyed her earlier books won't be disappointed with this novel in verse featuring two seventh grade girls who might seem to have nothing in common but are nevertheless drawn to each other. Kate (Ponytail) is the leader of the pack, her crew of cheerleaders, and she seems to have it all together, from the permanent smile on her face to her perfectly-placed bow in her hair. Tam (Redwood) is tall and solid Author K.A. Holt hits it out of the ballpark with this title. Middle grade readers who have enjoyed her earlier books won't be disappointed with this novel in verse featuring two seventh grade girls who might seem to have nothing in common but are nevertheless drawn to each other. Kate (Ponytail) is the leader of the pack, her crew of cheerleaders, and she seems to have it all together, from the permanent smile on her face to her perfectly-placed bow in her hair. Tam (Redwood) is tall and solid and a talented volleyball player. As they get to know each other, the girls realize that they have feelings for each other--call it a crush, call it love, call it like or something different from friendship--and that what others see isn't the whole picture. In some ways, Tam has the self-confidence that Kate longs for while Tam realizes that Kate is nothing like her outward facade. But how can Kate risk upsetting or disappointing her mother or confusing her friends as she starts moving away from them? Readers will root for these girls, especially Kate, to be true to themselves and their feelings and searching for someone who accepts them as they are and someplace where they can be themselves and love whomever they want. Since the story is told in alternating voices, readers are able to experience both girls' confusion and the blushes of a first love. I have to say I wanted to applaud when Tam went off on Kate's friends and their fondness for the band, MisDirection. I'm positive this one will fly off the shelf and be passed from hand to hand because of the realness of the emotions depicted here. Additionally, the book even features brief appearances from a couple of characters from House Arrest and Knock Out, which adds to its appeal. I was emotionally gutted by many of the passages in which Kate's mother made an appearance, unable or unwilling to listen to her daughter. Once again, I finished a book and thought about the price that is paid when choosing to be true to oneself or the opposite, to conform to the wishes of others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kaycie

    I received this e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. TL;DR: Please give this to your middle schoolers! Amazing. Well written. Timeless. Quick read. Age appropriate. Worthwhile. Will make you feel things and probably cry - especially if you’ve ever been through these things before. Coming of age. Accepting yourself. Wholesome. The first couple of pages didn’t catch me because I hadn’t gotten a feel for the two characters’ voices yet. A few pages more in and I couldn’t put it dow I received this e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. TL;DR: Please give this to your middle schoolers! Amazing. Well written. Timeless. Quick read. Age appropriate. Worthwhile. Will make you feel things and probably cry - especially if you’ve ever been through these things before. Coming of age. Accepting yourself. Wholesome. The first couple of pages didn’t catch me because I hadn’t gotten a feel for the two characters’ voices yet. A few pages more in and I couldn’t put it down. That ‘can’t put it down’ feeling continued for the rest of the book. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it being told through poetry, but it really added to the book in a meaningful way. This is the kind of book I would buy for a kid trying to figure themselves out. Yes, it’s fantastic if you’re figuring out your sexuality, but I’d also recommend this for anyone trying to figure out who they are and wondering if the people around them will accept them. People trying to figure out which ‘me’ is the real ‘me’. Honestly that applies to so many people through their teens and twenties as well. This book dealt with some serious topics and yet still managed to feel uplifting overall and wholesome. I would have liked a few more pages of happiness at the end to fully make the switch back to uplifted. As Kate and Tam dealt with their feelings, you felt them too. It’s pretty powerful. It’s also very realistic for what people go through trying to figure themselves out. I actually enjoyed the ending of this one and I give huge props to the author for that because it’s so rare for me. This book had me fully crying on the train from the depth of emotion the girls were dealing with. It was also nice to see the different family dynamics between the two girls. I think this alone could be so important for young girls to see. It’s also important to see that everyone has things going on you don’t know about and that we all struggle with who we are. I’d like to request a college age version of this because I think it’d be a really great adaptation. Regardless, this story is timeless and should be in every school library.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    An impossibly sweet novel in verse. The characters are lifelike and beautifully written. The friendship is so sweet, and I have never shipped two characters more. They're perfect together. And the themes of growing up and finding out who you are are well-drawn and all too real. Kate, I think, is the better fleshed-out main character. She felt especially real. She has a fully developed family, and her struggles feel like they get more attention. She's such a sweetheart, and she makes a An impossibly sweet novel in verse. The characters are lifelike and beautifully written. The friendship is so sweet, and I have never shipped two characters more. They're perfect together. And the themes of growing up and finding out who you are are well-drawn and all too real. Kate, I think, is the better fleshed-out main character. She felt especially real. She has a fully developed family, and her struggles feel like they get more attention. She's such a sweetheart, and she makes a lot of mistakes as she figures out who she is. She's worried about what other people think of her and she needs to learn what makes her happy. But she's afraid that her being happy will make other people unhappy. Her relationship with her sister Jill is lovely to read about. And lots of readers probably have problems like Kate does with her mom. Tam was harder for me to connect with. Maybe that's because I'm more like Kate, but also just because I don't think Tam was given quite as much depth. That being said, I still like her a lot. I just got frustrated with her sometimes. She seems less mature than Kate in some ways, yet more mature in others. I didn't like how she completely abandoned her friend when she met Kate. The plot is nicely done, although I think there was an unnecessary amount of petty drama between Kate and Tam, but it was well resolved. I liked the structure of the book. I didn't think the sections with the "chorus" were all that great, but that's mainly because it took me a while to figure out what was up with it. It was a unique touch. This is a truly lovely book that I would recommend to middle grade readers as well as young adult ones. There's nothing objectionable, it's very clean, and it might help a reader feel much less alone. The message of the book is that it's okay not to be "normal," and that there's a Redwood for everyone's Ponytail and vice versa. Truly sweet and made me choked up in a couple of places. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    I received this book from Abrams&Chronicle in exchange for an honest review. Kate and Tam are from the opposites sides of the tracks in their high school. Kate is the perfect cheerleader with an overbearing mom, and Tam is the volleyball jock with a bounce to her step. But somehow the two end up becoming friends, and then a little bit more. But can the girls accept themselves for who they truly are - both within themselves and their own sexual identity. This is a really I received this book from Abrams&Chronicle in exchange for an honest review. Kate and Tam are from the opposites sides of the tracks in their high school. Kate is the perfect cheerleader with an overbearing mom, and Tam is the volleyball jock with a bounce to her step. But somehow the two end up becoming friends, and then a little bit more. But can the girls accept themselves for who they truly are - both within themselves and their own sexual identity. This is a really great book written in verse, and I found it immediately addictive, bouncy and quote fun - yet not without some hard punches packed into it as well. I really liked the different struggles between Kate and Tam, and I warmed very quickly to their incredibly sweet relationships. It felt very natural and youthful, and I just wanted to squish them together. I do think there was more focus on Kate's own struggles to accept herself and her relationship with her mom (which was never truly rectified or confronted) than Tam's but I loved still seeing Tam's relationships in her life. Her mom was lovely, the type of mom you want to see in a YA book (particularly one about sexuality), and she had her neighma Frankie as well which was a nice touch. I didn't quite understand the inserts of the Alexes and their commentary though I did like it. They weirdly reminded me of the Three Witches in Macbeth but just not scary or threatening in any way. While it was great that Tam and Kate found themselves and each other in the book, I would have liked a bit more friendliness and acceptance with their friends such as Becca and Levi. I did fly through this book though as it's easy to do with verse and I was thoroughly sucked into Tam and Kate's world. It didn't give me all of the emotional feels I've experienced with other verse books but I still did love it a lot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I was excited about reading this sapphic middle grade novel-in-verse, but I have mixed feelings about it. There were some beautiful lines of poetry, particularly as the girls questioned their attraction to each other. Internalized homophobia was discussed, which can be triggering for some readers, but I appreciated that this was included in the character's coming-out process because it was realistic. I enjoyed seeing Kate's evolution as a character over the course of the novel, but thought Tam w I was excited about reading this sapphic middle grade novel-in-verse, but I have mixed feelings about it. There were some beautiful lines of poetry, particularly as the girls questioned their attraction to each other. Internalized homophobia was discussed, which can be triggering for some readers, but I appreciated that this was included in the character's coming-out process because it was realistic. I enjoyed seeing Kate's evolution as a character over the course of the novel, but thought Tam was more of a static character. However, I did not think the characters' voices were distinct enough and often had to go back and remember which girl was narrating each poem. I found the format confusing. I did not like the addition of the Greek Chorus (three students whose names were all different spellings of "Alex"). They were repetitive and I personally did not think they added anything to the story. I was confused sometimes when reading dialogue because the quotes were in italics and often lacked a direct attribution. I felt like the author could have had normal quotation marks within her novel-in-verse. Lastly, I was bothered that (view spoiler)[one character outs another to her friends, but does not suffer any consequences. I wished the book spent more discussing this because it was treated frivolously, but it is never okay (hide spoiler)] . Overall, I am giving this book 2.5 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this title for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I loved this book. There is no other way to say it. I simply loved it. I loved the characters, I loved the writing, I loved the storyline, I loved the acknowledgements, I loved it all. Holt has penned an impressive story of what it feels like to have a first crush, and then to also realize that your first crush might not be who you thought it would be. T Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this title for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I loved this book. There is no other way to say it. I simply loved it. I loved the characters, I loved the writing, I loved the storyline, I loved the acknowledgements, I loved it all. Holt has penned an impressive story of what it feels like to have a first crush, and then to also realize that your first crush might not be who you thought it would be. This is a lovely sweet story and one I can't wait to hand out to my middle school readers. Tam and Kate meet on the first day of school, and suddenly, it's like they've always known each other. Of course they want to be friends. Of course they want to hang. Of course they make each other laugh. And so what if they might hold hands? Or only want to see each other? Or feel a sparkle each time the other is near by? Tam knows who she is. Kate knows who her mother wants her to be. And as 7th grade goes by, the girls must learn to figure out what it means to be themselves. Highly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Review originally published on my blog, Books and Big Ideas. I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books. Queer girls are really (finally!) having a moment in middle grade literature, so naturally I was looking forward to K.A. Holt’s new middle grade book, and I devoured it in just a couple of days before its release. I haven’t read any of Holt’s books before, but I’d heard they were popular with upper elementary and middle schoolers, and I reall/>I Review originally published on my blog, Books and Big Ideas. I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books. Queer girls are really (finally!) having a moment in middle grade literature, so naturally I was looking forward to K.A. Holt’s new middle grade book, and I devoured it in just a couple of days before its release. I haven’t read any of Holt’s books before, but I’d heard they were popular with upper elementary and middle schoolers, and I really appreciated her op-ed about how schools tried to censor her sexuality during her visits. Redwood and Ponytail, like the rest of Holt’s books I believe, is a novel-in-verse. This one is told in alternating perspectives of Kate and Tam, the real names of the titular characters (Kate has a perfect cheerleader ponytail; Tam is tall like a redwood), and sometimes their poems are side-by-side when they’re individually having a similar crisis. It’s an intensely personal style that still manages to flesh out the characters and the world around them. One way this is done is by a Greek chorus-style group of kids named different spellings of “Alex” that really emphasizes middle school politics and the sense of social anxiety both Kate and Tam have about how they’re perceived. I loved the relationships Kate and Tam have with adults in their life. Adults are such a big part of adolescence and yet they can often be underwritten in books, but that isn’t the case here. Tam’s mom is goofy but loving, and she also has great models in her old lesbian neighbors (and their pets), but Kate’s got other challenges and lacks these models. Her mom has the perfect plan for Kate to be cheerleading captain, even though she starts to really enjoy being the mascot. Kate also has an adult sister who doesn’t have a great relationship with their mother, only heightening the mother’s expectations of Kate. But the sister, Jill, actually turns out to be another adult figure for Kate to confide in. And ultimately, importantly, there is no tragedy. I really appreciate that both Kate and Tam get to make mistakes and be unlikable sometimes. They’re kids going through a lot–of course they will! And that just added to the depth and humanity of these characters, as well as suspense. Before everything can work out, they have to confront their own internal issues first. It’s an emotional roller coaster that’s steeped in honesty, not manipulation or plot twists. I look forward to recommending this book to others and getting this and some of Holt’s other books for my future students if I teach middle school!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    I spent most of middle school reading Ellen Hopkin's books in verse and while those were very central to my development as a young person, this is the type of book in verse that I would love to give younger me instead. This is such an innocent story of two girls learning about themselves and coming into their own in middle school. It's so sweet and would be a great introductory book in verse for younger readers. While I really wish that the other characters would have had more develop I spent most of middle school reading Ellen Hopkin's books in verse and while those were very central to my development as a young person, this is the type of book in verse that I would love to give younger me instead. This is such an innocent story of two girls learning about themselves and coming into their own in middle school. It's so sweet and would be a great introductory book in verse for younger readers. While I really wish that the other characters would have had more development I overall really enjoyed this. We definitely need more books like this in the world. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tressie

    This book is so so beautiful. From the way it's written (in verse), to the amazingly complicated characters (Tam and Kate - so adorable), to the overlap of the verse. It's all incredible. The one thing I will say is that it's recommended for ages 10+ (grades 5+), and while I don't have an issue with the subject matter for that age, I do think the way it's written could be confusing. There is quite a lot of back and forth and overlapping of the verses. I found it beautiful to read, but I did have This book is so so beautiful. From the way it's written (in verse), to the amazingly complicated characters (Tam and Kate - so adorable), to the overlap of the verse. It's all incredible. The one thing I will say is that it's recommended for ages 10+ (grades 5+), and while I don't have an issue with the subject matter for that age, I do think the way it's written could be confusing. There is quite a lot of back and forth and overlapping of the verses. I found it beautiful to read, but I did have to reread a couple passages before I could continue. I would highly recommend this book to ANY teenager or preteen who is figuring out who they are and what is "normal".

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    I love all the KA Holt’s novels I have read, and Timothy form House Arrest is one of my favorite characters ever. I even have a place in my heart for Rhyme Schemer’s troublemaker-poet Kevin, and I was happy when Levi (House Arrest) grew into his own novel. Tam (Redwood) and Kate (Ponytail) come from two different worlds. Kate’s mom puts helicopter parents to shame. She has orchestrated Kate’s entire life so that in 7th grade she will become cheer captain and she will follow her m I love all the KA Holt’s novels I have read, and Timothy form House Arrest is one of my favorite characters ever. I even have a place in my heart for Rhyme Schemer’s troublemaker-poet Kevin, and I was happy when Levi (House Arrest) grew into his own novel. Tam (Redwood) and Kate (Ponytail) come from two different worlds. Kate’s mom puts helicopter parents to shame. She has orchestrated Kate’s entire life so that in 7th grade she will become cheer captain and she will follow her mother’s life—unlike her much older sister who joined the Navy at 18. She lives in the perfect house, which is always being perfected, and her daughter certainly isn’t gay. Tam’s mother is the opposite. Open and accepting and prone to trying out the adolescent lingo (and providing many of the laughs in reading this book). Tam is also looked after by neighbor Frankie and her wife. Frankie, it appears, is full of advice, based on experience trying to fit the stereotype. Tam is an athlete, tall as a redwood, ace volleyball player, who everyone high-five’s in the hallway, but she realizes she only has one good friend, Levy. On the first day of school, Tam and Kate meet and, as they quickly, mysteriously, develop deep feelings for each other, they find each not only different from the stereotypes everyone assumes, but, opposite though they seem, opposite though their lives and families may be they each discover they may be a little different than they thought they were and more alike than they thought. Does Kate actually want to be cheer captain or would she rather run free in the team’s mascot’s costume? Does she really want to have lunch at her same old table or would she rather sit with Tam and Levy which is much more fun? Does Tam really want to beat Kate for the school presidency? Or is she punishing Kate for not being able to admit what their friendship may be? As their relationship experiences ups and downs, and they each try to define their attraction, they also find that others may not be as critical and narrow-minded as they assumed. Written in my favorite format, free verse with some rhymes thrown in for rhythm, the author takes the form to another level with parallel lines and two-voice poetry. I would suggest that the reader have some experience with verse novels before reading. I also loved the Greek chorus—Alex, Alyx, Alexx—who comment on the action and keeps it moving along.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    An absolutely adorable story about two girls learning to accept themselves for who they are. I was rooting for Kate and Tam the whole time. It’s so easy to fall in love with the characters. I love these moments, The ones that feel like Everything And everyone Disappears And it’s only us In the whole world. The poetic verse was so beautifully written and easy to read. Some sections just told the story, while others made me stop and think about the deeper meaning in the An absolutely adorable story about two girls learning to accept themselves for who they are. I was rooting for Kate and Tam the whole time. It’s so easy to fall in love with the characters. I love these moments, The ones that feel like Everything And everyone Disappears And it’s only us In the whole world. The poetic verse was so beautifully written and easy to read. Some sections just told the story, while others made me stop and think about the deeper meaning in the text. I have my local library to thank for providing me with an advance reader’s copy of this book. Definitely pick it up when it hits shelves this September.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

    I would say 3.75 really....... I did like the idea of this book, I just thought that the author could have done a little more with it. Added more detail, more inner thinking so that younger kids can understand clearly how Kate and Tam feel, because it is about a subject that is very hard to understand. Overall I'm glad I read it and I know that other people really loved this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was so cute, and a really fast read! I don't think I would have picked it up if I knew this book was middle grade because that's not usually what I read, so I'm glad I didn't know that going in! I hope this book finds its way into the hands of the kids who need to hear what it has to say, because it says a lot of good things!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Tanner

    This is a beautifully told story about two girls who are finding their first romantic relationship. It's told from both of their points of view in free verse. It goes through the highs and lows of many first relationships as well as some of the specific perils of a same sex relationship. I think this one belongs in every middle and high school library.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Another slam dunk by Holt!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I am not normally a fan of novels in verse, but I LOVED Redwood and Ponytail. As the cover says, it's a story of two girls falling into like. The novel features alternating sections of Kate (aka Ponytail) and Tam (aka Redwood) with the occasional 3rd party perspective of Alex, Alyx, and Alexx. We need more mid-grade books like this! Not just because it explores homosexuality, but because it truly explores the concept of finding yourself and accepting the person you find - a hard conce I am not normally a fan of novels in verse, but I LOVED Redwood and Ponytail. As the cover says, it's a story of two girls falling into like. The novel features alternating sections of Kate (aka Ponytail) and Tam (aka Redwood) with the occasional 3rd party perspective of Alex, Alyx, and Alexx. We need more mid-grade books like this! Not just because it explores homosexuality, but because it truly explores the concept of finding yourself and accepting the person you find - a hard concept for anyone, but especially powerful for teens. Thank you to Chronicle Books for the signed ARC I received at TLA 2019!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alina Borger

    I loved this book. The queer girl I was and didn't let myself be long ago would have loved this book, too. She would have read it and reread it and reread it until she finally figured out who she was. Thanks, K.A. Holt.

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