THE ANIMAL, THE VEGETABLE AND JOHN D. JONES

In this sharply cast but overly managed story, three kids, two of them sisters, are thrown together when the girls' divorced father decides to share their two-week island vacation with his widowed "friend" Delores, John D.'s mother. All three kids are disgruntled with the arrangement, even before they meet, and their discontent is set when they do meet—with seventh-grader John D. and his mother walking in on Clara, his age, and Deanie, a little older, in the midst of one of the sisters' dumb fights. The scene itself has its satisfactions, though, for John D.—an outsider type who has cultivated an air of calm disdain, even toward his mother? and who delights in administering the perfect put-down (though he seems easily humiliated himself). Gloats John D., "Coming into the house and finding the girls screaming insults at each other, perfect insults—insults that told him everything he wanted to know about them—well. . . it was like one of those TV shows. . . ." This is just one example of Byars' use here of standard, stagey devices which she then identifies as such—as if to let us know that she knows better. In a more central flaunting of this practice, a native on the airplane going in warns John D.'s mother about the local currents. There have already been two drownings this year, the man tells her. "The way he said it made John D. think of a disaster movie made cheaply for TV"—and so all through the book whenever Clara goes swimming you expect her to be swept out to sea. . . until at last she is, snoozing on an inflated float. Byars stretches out the premonition of danger until John D. becomes alarmed and mobilizes Deanie. But they have no boat, and Clara is missing for hours before an alerted fishing boat picks her up. Meanwhile the raft is found, Clara is presumed lost, and Deanie—hitherto preoccupied with cheerleading tryouts, the perfect tan, and tormenting her sister—gives in to Delores' friendly overtures and blubbers about all the times she was mean to Clara. The crisis over, the group has been consolidated and Deanie is pretty much back to normal. Clara, who's been generally miserable all along, feels joy in surviving and conviction that she has, inexpressibly, changed. Having witnessed her terror and tenacity at sea, we can accept this. John D.'s breakthrough into caring and feeling, though, is a little too neat. "He felt as if he had been drawn into a strong unknown current himself, swept out of a safe harbor into dangerous waters," says Byars, neglecting this time to note that his thoughts sound like cheap melodrama. No doubt John D. needed to be shocked into such a recognition, even at the risk of seeming less than cool. And Byars makes him interesting from the start, with his wry observations and obvious emotional inadequacy. In fact she plays all three children off against each other with sympathy, understanding, and a sure sense of dramatic revelation. However, this falls short of the penetrating warmth and conviction of Byars at her best.

Pub Date: April 1, 1982

ISBN: 0370309146

Page Count: 123

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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CINDERELLA

This companion piece to the other fairy tales Marcia Brown has interpreted (see Puss In Boots, 1952, p. 548 and others) has the smoothness of a good translation and a unique charm to her feathery light pictures. The pictures have been done in sunset colors and the spreads on each page as they illustrate the story have the cumulative effect of soft cloud banks. Gentle.

Pub Date: June 15, 1954

ISBN: 0684126761

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1954

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