THE DANDELION GARDEN

A collection of ten very strong stories, some uneven but all worth reading more than once, about turning points in young lives, from which a return to innocence is impossible. When does a person grow up? Does it happen all at once or gradually? In ``Dreams,'' the narrator comments that 12 ``seems to be a favorite age for waking up.'' Suddenly he can hear the edge in his mother's voice, while his younger siblings remain blissfully oblivious. But Janetta in ``Janetta's Confinement'' learns some important lessons at seven-and-a-half. And Joanna McKelvey has her moment of truth at 14, when an idolized preacher reveals his darker side. Characters are well-realized; the many voices, for the most part, ring true. The title story, subtitled ``A Modern Fable for Elderly Children,'' and ``The Happy Pill,'' a futuristic science fiction piece, are more contrived and self-conscious than the others. Wilson (The Leaving, 1992, etc.) is at her best when writing realistically, focusing on a bit of conversation, a sideways glance, a finger stroking someone's wrist—the seemingly insignificant details that have the power to change everything. (Fiction/short stories. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 11, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-22768-7

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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