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


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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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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