An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues.

THE CHUPACABRAS OF THE RÍO GRANDE

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 4

Uchenna and Elliot join Professor Fauna on a trip to the southern border to rescue the mythical chupacabras.

In this borderland adventure of the Unicorn Rescue Society, Peruvian Professor Fauna whisks Uchenna and the ever reluctant Elliot out of class and flies them down on a dilapidated plane to Laredo, Texas. The trio’s mission is to rescue a baby chupacabra, whose pack’s feeding pattern has been disrupted by a border wall. In this fourth installment of the series, Gidwitz seeks to provide credibility and authority on border topics by bringing on Mexican-American author Bowles as a co-writer. However, their effort to incorporate complex topics—such as environmental and immigration issues—into an otherwise formulaic and predictable plot falls short, as the complexities of border life are constantly pointed out and explained by adults. As in previous installments, one of Professor Fauna’s ex-colleagues makes an appearance to aid the group in thwarting whatever species-endangering scheme the Schmoke brothers may have concocted. The encounter between Dr. Cervantes, a Mexican-American professor teaching at Texas A&M, and her former mentor creates tension between the adult characters, forcing the children to become spectators who simply learn and imitate the correct behaviors from adults. Uchenna presents black and Elliot, white.

An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3179-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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