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

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

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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Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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