BAD DREAMS

The air of strangeness hanging about a new classmate turns out to have just cause in this tale of a bookworm and a child cursed with a unique kind of second sight. “Cursed” is the right word, for not only can’t Imogen help seeing what’s in store for living people, but just touching a book, even a novel, makes her an unwilling participant in whatever terrors or tensions the story inside bears. Observing the reactions Imogen can’t quite conceal, Melanie gradually figures out her terrible secret and its cause—an odd necklace passed down to Imogen by her otherworldly mother. Though Imogen refuses to see it, whenever she takes the necklace off, she becomes a different person, gregarious and free. Melanie faces a tough decision: to keep her nose in her beloved books and out of what is, after all, not her business, or find a way to separate Imogen from the talisman and dispose of it? With some reluctance, Mel concocts a secret, clever plan, only to find in the suspenseful climax that the necklace has powerful defenses of its own that require some unexpected sacrifices to overcome. As in The Tulip Touch (1997), Fine has placed two young people with unusually complex motives and characters into a challenging, sometimes scary situation: readers will not be putting this one down until the last page. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32757-9

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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HOW TO STEAL A DOG

Georgina and younger brother Toby begin a homeless life living in Mom’s car, having been evicted when Dad leaves. Mom tries her best to work two minimum-wage jobs in order to make the security deposit for a new apartment while the kids struggle daily to maintain normalcy in and out of school. Desperate to help Mom gain some significant cash, Georgina concocts a grand scheme to steal a dog, dupe the owner into offering a $500 reward and then return the designated pooch for the cash. As crazy as this sounds, O’Connor weaves a suspenseful and achingly realistic story, fleshing out characters that live and breathe anxiety, fortitude and a right vs. wrong consciousness. Colorful, supporting roles of a wise, kind vagrant and a lonely, overweight dog owner round out this story of childhood helplessness, ingenuity and desolation. Georgina’s reflections in a secretly kept “how-to” journal will have kids anticipating her misconceptions about the realities of theft and deception. A powerful portrayal from an innocently youthful perspective. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-33497-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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