RUNNING BACK TO LUDIE

A series of spare, linked poems tell the story of a teenage girl’s fleeting reunion with the mother who left her many years ago. The unnamed narrator describes her longing for her mother, her anticipation of the visit, her father and her Aunt Lucille, who helped raise her. Johnson’s (Those Building Men, 2000, etc.) poetic style at its best distills the narrator’s emotional state into a pure essence that immediately communicates itself to the child reader, as in “Cracks”: “I don’t step / on / cracks. / Ever. / I walk with / my head down. / Watching. / More careful than the others / with / mothers / that they take for granted.” The poetic spotlight dances along, illuminating moments and emotions, but never dwelling overlong on any of its subjects. However lovely individual poems may be, though, the selection is rather odd. While most develop and extend the narrator’s relationships with the key people in her life—father, aunt, mother Ludie (and hairdresser and psychiatrist, brilliantly paired in two poems)—others, such as a poem that muses about twins, seem plunked in to the sequence with little regard for their context. In a larger collection, they would serve to flesh out the narrator’s character and environment, but this one is so slim that the occasional non-germane poem serves only to distract from the otherwise tight focus. Angelo’s (Stepping Out with Grandma Mac, not reviewed) soft, black-and-white spot illustrations are pleasing enough but do not materially extend the text or really do justice to a self-described “grrl.” Overall, however, this slender offering packs an honest emotional punch. (Fiction/poetry. 10-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-29316-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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