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THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE

THE RUSSEL MIDDLEBROOK SERIES, VOLUME 4

Fans of the series will revel in this smart, quirky YA novel that’s ripe with substance beyond the surface.

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In Hartinger’s (The Order of the Poison Oak, 2005, etc.) newest YA installment in the Russel Middlebrook series, Russel finds his wishes for adventure unexpectedly granted in the form of a counterculture-loving, Dumpster-diving new guy.

While instant messaging his boyfriend—Otto, who’s 800 miles away but a great friend—Russel suddenly realizes they’ve become just friends. Otto understands that Russel wants more than text on the screen, so they decide to break up. This is just what Russel needs: an opportunity to forsake love and welcome adventure. Yet not 24 hours after breaking up with Otto, and despite his claims against love and guys, Russel finds himself guiltily, and weirdly, attracted to Wade, a tight-shirt–wearing, beefy, black 19-year-old who pops out of a Dumpster. Wade is a “freegan” living off society’s refuse and discarded consumerism, though he’s not a bum or homeless. Rather, he’s smart and invigorating—just the kind of adventure Russel has been looking for. But perhaps too much of one. In true-to-character, first-person prose, Hartinger reveals the psychological and social conundrums of a lovesick, somewhat self-involved gay boy in high school. Teenage readers, homosexual or not, will find the confident, slang-heavy prose easy to understand, especially since Russel’s and his friends’ mindsets are warmly personal yet identifiable. When Russel’s life doesn’t go exactly as he expects, Hartinger shows how “the planet exploded, and the sun winked out, and gravity stopped working, and our entire solar system was sucked into a big black hole.” Along with the edifying main plotline, which will appeal to readers of any age, the well-conceived subplots won’t disappoint young readers looking for the juicy gossip that runs through the series. With Russel, there’s always drama—real and perceived—but definitely no lack of love.

Fans of the series will revel in this smart, quirky YA novel that’s ripe with substance beyond the surface.

Pub Date: March 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0984679454

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Buddha Kitty Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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TALES FOR VERY PICKY EATERS

Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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