BUBBER GOES TO HEAVEN

From Bontemps (with Langston Hughes, The Pasteboard Bandit, 1997, etc.), a previously unpublished story with the sound and sense of a 1930s folktale. Bubber falls out of a tree while hunting with his uncle, and finds himself in heaven. It’s similar to what he knows of Earth, except that angels keep everything scrubbed clean, every day is Sunday, there is plentiful food, and Sister Esther helps him when his new-growing wings itch and ache. In the children’s pageant in heaven, the angel children get to portray people from all ages and times. Bubber eventually wakes up to discover that it was all a dream. Minter notes that the black Southern dialect, which recalled his own Southern youth, inspired him to create wood-block and linoleum-block prints of black angels, not as individual figures but as stylized characters; these are powerful images that transcend stereotypes. The tale itself is a period piece. The apparatus surrounding the story—an introduction by James Haskins and afterword by Charles I. James—clearly explains Bontemps’s life and work, and places this story in the context of his scholarly career as an anthologist, collaborator, teacher, and librarian; the volume may be more meaningful to an adult researcher than to a young reader. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-19-512365-4

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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DANIEL'S STORY

After witnessing the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, Daniel is suddenly transported, at age 14, from his comfortable life in Frankfurt to a Polish ghetto, then to Auschwitz and Buchenwald—losing most of his family along the way, seeing Nazi brutality of both the casual and the calculated kind, and recording atrocities with a smuggled camera (``What has happened to me?...Who am I? Where am I going?''). Matas, explicating an exhibit of photos and other materials at the new United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, creates a convincing composite youth and experience—fictional but carefully based on survivors' accounts. It's a savage story with no attempt to soften the culpability of the German people; Daniel's profound anger is easier to understand than is his father's compassion or his sister's plea to ``chose love. Always choose love.'' Daniel survives to be reunited, after the war, with his wife-to-be, but his dying friend's last word echoes beyond the happy ending: ``Remember...'' An unusual undertaking, effectively carried out. Chronology; glossary. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-590-46920-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY

From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 1

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-33664-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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