THE NIGHT SWIMMERS

Acutely perceptive and crystal clear; deeply attuned to kids' feelings yet cool-eyed and shrewd; and, to boot, a solidly realized story propelled by original, huggably vulnerable characters: This story of a shallow, career-minded country singer's three motherless kids is just what a children's novel should be. Retta (for Loretta Lynn) has raised her brothers since their singer mother was killed in a plane crash; and she takes her role as mother hen and recreation director with fierce solemnity. Bossy, she turns them out at midnight (their father is off performing) to steal swims in a neighboring colonel's pool. ("We're going to do all the things rich people do. Only we have to do them at night, that's the only difference.") But Retta's control slips when brother Johnny—bursting with self-satisfaction and the certainty of her chagrin-makes a friend. (Not just any friend, but a boy who makes and flies his own airplanes, with radio controls.) Soon, Retta has lost her puppeteer's hold on Roy, the youngest, to the glamour of Johnny's friend. Moody and undone, she follows the boys and spies on them, fired by motherly concern (as she insists) but also seething with jealousy like the child she is and the power-player she is becoming. When Retta slips out one night on Johnny's tail, Roy ends up, panicked, in the pool. The colonel rescues him and summons their father, who arrives home in his pink velour cowboy suit; and in the ensuing showdown Retta "felt as bewildered as a child whose dolls have come to life and are demanding real attention." Though this is Retta's story, each of her brothers has his spotlit moments. "Invisible" Johnny's late-blooming sense of self is heartening to behold; and Roy, indicatively, is touchingly disabused of a running fantasy about an offstage, odiferous plant. (They should shut it down, says Retta, but Roy has envisioned chopping it down.) Retta, shocked into self-awareness by the pool incident and by Johnny's friend's challenge ("and do you think for them too?"), is eased into letting go by the sympathetic guidance of her father's girlfriend Brendelie—who shows signs of relieving Retta by marrying into the family. Byars takes us all into the family, and puts us in touch with the humanity behind the tacky (father), the officious (Retta), and the invisible among us.

Pub Date: April 30, 1980

ISBN: 0174324308

Page Count: 113

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980

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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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