Books by Stephen Roos

Released: March 1, 2001

Here's a quirky and implausible story about sixth-grader Augie Knapp, who was born with a deformed left hand. For as long as he can remember, Augie, who lives with his single mom and her brother in a blue-collar small town in Pennsylvania, has hidden his stump in a homemade prosthesis, a glove that holds wire shapes and cotton balls to fill out the fingers. While Augie can't participate in some activities, he is generally accepted by his peers and has some close friends. Into this scene enters decidedly strange Lydie Rose Meisenheimer—a sixth-grader driving her own convertible yet—who takes an immediate shine to Augie. For reasons that the author doesn't convincingly explain, she seems to see right through Augie the moment she meets him; overwhelms him with squirmingly embarrassing attention; gets him out of a jam when he doesn't turn in a homework assignment; and repeatedly exhorts him to wait till "the Gypsies come" because they will appreciate his hand. The author doesn't make it clear just who these "Gypsies" are or whether Lydie is one herself. Over time Augie starts thinking more and more about them and hoping that they—and the father he never knew—will show up. He also gradually warms up to Lydie and accepts his handicap when she leaves town in a too-pat ending. Perhaps the Gypsies have been inside Augie all along and Lydie just helped his self-acceptance emerge. Readers will appreciate the humor here; they'll like Augie and will wonder whether the Gypsies will, in fact, ever show and what will happen then. But they are bound to be perplexed, too. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

In this slender but expressively written story that is full of agile observations yet strangely lacking in emotional reality, a poor boy moves in with a rich classmate and his family, enjoys the good life, then realizes that staying on involves a sacrifice he isn't willing to make. George Honiker, who is in sixth grade, lives in a tiny cramped space in a trailer park with his very pregnant sister and her husband Karl. Karl works in the local mill, which is both the backbone of the town's economy and its biggest polluter, "transforming a thousand gallons of clean water into poison every sixty seconds." When environmental activists force the mill to close, Karl and George's sister are gone by the end of day—Karl has found a new job that starts immediately—leaving George some money and instructions to follow. Instead, George accepts an invitation to move in with Rennie Whitfield, the richest boy in town. George loves living in luxury, and soon Rennie's idiosyncratic grandmother offers to adopt him, hoping to recycle him from his poor trash background into a gentleman. George, realizing the deal requires him to give up his family and identity, declines her invitation before moving back with his sister. The elegance of the writing can't hide the fact that the Whitfield clan operates on a psychological plane that's devoid of human authenticity, and George's deep attachment to his family is not adequately rendered. So his final decision doesn't have the emotional gravitas and air of inevitability this graceful book deserves. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A routine, heavy-handed take on close sisters drifting apart. In a new town and new school, Suki, 10, feels that her friendship with her sister is one of the few things she can count on—until Ginger brings home friends from her own class and decides to go to the Junior High Harvest Dance rather than use the concert tickets Suki bought for her birthday. These characters simply don't behave credibly; when Suki rips up the expensive tickets, her parents sigh patiently; when she appears in school with a homemade haircut, classmates buy her wild story about rescuing a cat in a storm and being singed by lightning. Irony is left behind as the obvious is laid on with a trowel—after Suki brushes off her little brother, ``All I kept wondering was how long it would take him to figure out that sometimes older kids just don't want to hang out with younger ones!'' In the end, the plot takes a twist that even uncritical readers will find artificial: Suki and two friends crash the dance, then refuse a friendly invitation to stay (``This is a party of twelve-year-olds, and we're just not twelve''). Awkward treatment of a well-worked theme. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

A second episode in the ``Pet Lovers Club'' series pits third-grader Erin and her bunny Peter against the other club members, who want to raise money for the new animal shelter by electing a pet to lead the Easter Parade. Horrified at the thought of losing—not to mention the absurdity of an Easter Gerbil, an Easter Cat, or even an Easter Cockroach—Erin stages a rabbitnapping to give her pet some publicity. Impelled by wholesome guilt, she eventually confesses to the parade crowd and, in a fine display of protective solidarity, the rest of the club steps forward to share the blame. Fluffy but readable, with advice for rabbit owners and a record-keeping chart. (Fiction. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

In this first in a new series, the third graders of the Pet Lovers' Club organize a Halloween party to benefit a local animal shelter; unfortunately, class bully Dirty Donald promises to come. Scared of Donald and sad that his beloved dog Rolf has been sent away, Bernie decides to stay home; but once he's allowed to keep an affectionate stray he names Elton, he changes his mind- -dyed black and fitted with fake fangs, Elton makes a convincing enough werewolf to scare the daylights out of Donald. Later, Elton coaxes Donald out of his previously concealed fear of dogs, while Donald and Bernie become friends. Roos appends a dog-care checklist for readers to fill out—and advice for werewolf owners, too. Succeeding volumes will doubtless focus on other club members' pets. No surprises here: formulaic but readable and wholesome. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >