STRIKE TWO

A bitter strike creates a family split possibly beyond even baseball’s power to mend, in this engaging tale from the author of Stranger in Dadland (p. 185). Gwen is eager for a summer of softball with teammate, cousin, and closest friend Jess, but that field of dreams loses its luster when the local newspaper that sponsors their team is hit by a strike. Gwen and Jess learn that their twin dads are on opposite sides of the dispute—a fact that takes on more and more weight as the strike goes on, tensions mount, and ugly incidents begin to occur. At first, Gwen has no idea what it all means, but as a new “us vs. them” attitude polarizes even the children in management and labor families, as she overhears talk of scabs and scare tactics, and as she sees widening rifts develop within her family, even between her own parents, annoyance gives way to confusion, fear, and despondence. Soon even she and Jess are on the outs. So what is there to do but organize a game between the strikers’ kids and managements’? Fortunately for the tale’s credibility, though news of the strike’s settlement happens to come during that game, sparking a jubilant, all-is-forgiven celebration, it’s really a coincidence. The real victory here is the convincing way Gwen inches past that feeling of powerlessness to the realization that, while not all problems have simple solutions, there’s nothing stopping her from stepping up to the plate and taking some healthy swings. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2607-4

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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