THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF AMELIA E. RYE

Despite Amelia E. Rye’s confession that, “I’m a very good liar. I curse, too,” she comes clean to readers in her “personal memoir,” in which she relates the difficulties of living with her bad-tempered mother, who was pushing 50 when Amelia was born. Mrs. Rye is too worn-out to muster any motherly feelings for her daughter. She forces Amelia to wear hand-me-downs that are decades out of fashion, causing the friendless girl to become the brunt of cruel pranks. Everything changes the day Fancy walks into Amelia’s fourth-grade class. New to the upstate New York town, the friendly African-American girl offers friendship and acceptance, the very things Amelia has been hankering for. The story moves quickly, and in its four-year span Amelia learns the truth about her dysfunctional family’s unhappy past. The 1960s-era setting is mostly irrelevant to the plot, the racial tension is unconvincing and Amelia’s observations are too often wise beyond her years. What propels this otherwise undistinguished coming-of-age story forward is the strong bond of friendship that deepens over time between Amelia and Fancy. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-36131-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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WHEN EAGLES FALL

Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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SEVENTH GRADE TANGO

PLB 0-7868-2427-1 The content and concerns of Levy’s latest is at odds with the young reading level and large type size, which may prevent this novel’s natural audience of middle schoolers from finding a fast and funny read. In sixth grade, Rebecca broke her friend Scott’s toe at a dance. Now, in seventh grade, they are partners in a ballroom dance class, and they soon find they dance well together, but that makes Rebecca’s friend Samantha jealous. She gives a party during which spin-the-bottle is played, kissing Scott and then bullying him into being her boyfriend. While Rebecca deals with her mixed feelings about all this, she also has a crush on her dance instructor. Levy (My Life as a Fifth-Grade Comedian, 1997, etc.) has great comedic timing and writes with a depth of feeling to make early adolescent romantic travails engaging; she also comes through on the equally difficult feat of making ballroom dancing appealing to young teens. The obsession with kissing, pre-sexual tension, and sensuality of the dancing will be off-putting or engrossing, depending entirely on readers’ comfort levels with such conversations in real life as well as on the page. Precocious preteens will find that this humorously empathetic take on budding romance is just right. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0498-X

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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