Packs real emotional weight into its slim pages and escapes the didactic tone of some “issue” novels. A promising debut in...

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GLASS PALACE

Weisskoff’s debut middle-grade novel takes newly orphaned Mia through raw grief and custody battles with gentleness and skill.

“How’s this for a birthday present?” asks 12-year-old Mia, whose day with her artsy Grandpa Ron is supposed to end with her parents’ taking her and BFF Samantha out for sushi. Instead, a phone call shatters her life—a car accident has killed both her parents. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Mia struggles with school and her future. She’d rather stay with her widowed grandfather in Oakland, Calif., but her mother’s folks, Alan and Ilene, want her to live with them in New York City. Complicating matters further, her Grandpa Alan loathes Grandpa Ron, and the former, a workaholic lawyer, is used to getting his way. Besides, Mia’s not sure her California grandpa wants her around anyway. Unable to bring up her fears in her new, perhaps temporary, home, she brings her troubles to the school’s guidance counselor, Ana, and—though Mia’s not a churchgoer—a young priest named Armando. While the appearance of a priest often signals an overtly religious novel, or shows the clergyman to be hypocritical at best, Armando guides Mia through her grief and guilt without pushing an agenda. He’s a refreshing, often funny character. In fact, characterization across the board is solid; Mia’s narration is never less than believable, and everyone else is distinct and has a unique inner life. Weisskoff’s mise-en-scène compels as well, as in a passage set in Grandpa Ron’s attic atelier, where he’s moved Mia’s telescope. As the two stargaze through a broken window, Mia’s able to pass the knowledge of the night sky she gained from her father along to his father. It’s a touching moment, with the clear chime of truth.

Packs real emotional weight into its slim pages and escapes the didactic tone of some “issue” novels. A promising debut in realistic youth fiction.

Pub Date: July 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478118565

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2013

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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