THE FRED FIELD

In an event-packed continuation of the saga of Oren Bell (1991) and his colorful inner-city Detroit family, the young African-American and his twin, Latonya, spend the summer after seventh grade fostering a ballpark (``Fred Field'') in memory of a gifted homeless friend who was murdered in the crack house that formerly occupied the site; discovering Fred's murderer and, by convincing him that Fred's ghost is haunting him, forcing him to confess; and organizing Mama's July 4 wedding—not to mention playing in a band and participating in an arts project. The exuberant productivity of these kids is almost a tall tale, but a joyously inspirational one: Latonya plans to be a doctor and manages the household with efficiency and panache while Mama goes to college and holds a job; little Brenda, though subject to depression, is creative and resilient; and, if Oren doesn't shine like his sisters, he's still thoughtful and reliable enough to make a perfect best man for his nice new dad. Burgess's witty narrative is a delight, with vivid, briskly developed scenes, a wealth of vibrant characters, and staccato dialogue that unobtrusively incorporates their firm grasp of what's feasible and what's right. Though upbeat, the story isn't simplistic; in the end, the city razes the Bell's beloved home and the ballfield, but at least the new housing to be built there will be named for Fred. Splendidly warmhearted and engrossing. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-31070-6

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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IQBAL

This profoundly moving story is all the more impressive because of its basis in fact. Although the story is fictionalized, its most harrowing aspects are true: “Today, more than two hundred million children between the ages of five and seventeen are ‘economically active’ in the world.” Iqbal Masih, a real boy, was murdered at age 13. His killers have never been found, but it’s believed that a cartel of ruthless people overseeing the carpet industry, the “Carpet Mafia,” killed him. The carpet business in Pakistan is the backdrop for the story of a young Pakistani girl in indentured servitude to a factory owner, who also “owned” the bonds of 14 children, indentured by their own families for sorely needed money. Fatima’s first-person narrative grips from the beginning and inspires with every increment of pride and resistance the defiant Iqbal instills in his fellow workers. Although he was murdered for his efforts, Iqbal’s life was not in vain; the accounts here of children who were liberated through his and activist adults’ efforts will move readers for years to come. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-85445-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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