Punch and his partner Judy drew enthusiastic audiences in the 19th century; his appeal to the 21st is likely to be...

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MR. PUNCH IN THE ESCAPE

A distinctly peculiar app retells a grisly Victorian puppet show.

Readers meet the clownish Mr. Punch in jail. To Punch’s disingenuous narration (and accompanied by objective stage directions), constable Jack Ketch erects a gibbet and prepares to hang the criminal. “What a handsome tree he has planted just opposite the window, for a prospect!” Punch rhapsodizes. Ketch tries to lure Punch into the noose and then commits the cardinal error of any trickster’s victim: Out of frustration, he demonstrates and does himself in. Punch gloats; story ends. The text, uncredited and unglossed, seems to come from a 19th-century puppet-show script by John Payne Collier; the illustrations feature a photo-collaged image of what appears to be a Punch puppet. It’s artfully done; the watercolor illustrations exaggerate the buffoonery of Ketch and his minions, and the kazoo accompaniment couldn’t be more appropriate. But with no credits and no notes of any kind, it’s hard to imagine who it’s for. Scholars of Victorian literature and culture may find it a pleasing bagatelle. Modern children are the apparent audience, judging by the appended bumper-car game that reveals corny dialogue balloons upon successful collisions. Unfamiliar as they are with the show’s conventions, though, what they are to make of it is anyone’s guess.             

Punch and his partner Judy drew enthusiastic audiences in the 19th century; his appeal to the 21st is likely to be considerably smaller.                                                                      (iPad storybook app. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: BumpBump Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR

Troubled teen meets totemic catalyst in Mikaelsen’s (Petey, 1998, etc.) earnest tribute to Native American spirituality. Fifteen-year-old Cole is cocky, embittered, and eaten up by anger at his abusive parents. After repeated skirmishes with the law, he finally faces jail time when he viciously beats a classmate. Cole’s parole officer offers him an alternative—Circle Justice, an innovative justice program based on Native traditions. Sentenced to a year on an uninhabited Arctic island under the supervision of Edwin, a Tlingit elder, Cole provokes an attack from a titanic white “Spirit Bear” while attempting escape. Although permanently crippled by the near-death experience, he is somehow allowed yet another stint on the island. Through Edwin’s patient tutoring, Cole gradually masters his rage, but realizes that he needs to help his former victims to complete his own healing. Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk, and if Cole’s turnaround is dramatic, it is also convincingly painful and slow. Alas, the rest of the characters are cardboard caricatures: the brutal, drunk father, the compassionate, perceptive parole officer, and the stoic and cryptic Native mentor. Much of the plot stretches credulity, from Cole’s survival to his repeated chances at rehabilitation to his victim being permitted to share his exile. Nonetheless, teens drawn by the brutality of Cole’s adventures, and piqued by Mikaelsen’s rather muscular mysticism, might absorb valuable lessons on anger management and personal responsibility. As melodramatic and well-meaning as the teens it targets. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97744-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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