Cass, the quirky, self-confident girl who appeared in Pollet’s earlier Nobody Was Here (2004), about prep school life in the mid-1980s, is trying in eighth grade to sort out who she really is: orphaned child; invincible girl; third wheel? She’s discovering that at 13 things start clanging around in disharmonious earnest. The garrulous boy seated behind Cass in English class seems to voice some of this turmoil. Rod is bold and not at all perfect, but their friendship is a gift, and his abrupt departure challenges Cass to try to find her own missing pieces. Pollet steers a neat and relatively innocent course through the troubled and murky waters of middle school. Readers will recognize Cass’s lack of perspective and experience as their own, and there are moments enough of genuine warmth and humor that they will care what happens to her. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-439-68194-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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Junior Philip Marlowes or Sam Spades—or readers fed up with schoolyard miscreants—will welcome the exploits of this hard-boiled, seen-it-all seventh-grade “hall cop.” Punctuated by recorded interviews with a startled guidance counselor, incident reports filed by his indefatigable, true-blue partner and occasional diary entries and articles written by the school’s gung-ho newspaper editor, the novel tracks how a disgraced Griff (he’s stripped of his badge at one point) and his friends eventually uncover a counterfeit hall-pass ring and bring down some nefarious perps. Griff’s devotion to duty is so uncompromising it’s comical, though not always credible. The first-person voice isn’t consistent, and some of Griff’s potboiler reflections will fall on ears unprimed to noir-ish ’40s-era detective patter. Still, this is a fast-paced read characterized by knowing, kid-friendly humor, and middle-grade readers will enjoy getting to know Hallway Patrolman Carver. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59514-276-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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