A family-friendly combination of memoir and historical, Christian fiction, light on plot but with plenty of action and ’50s...

SINISTER SUMMER

CARS, CRUISERS, AND CLOSE CALLS

Set against the backdrop of ’50s America, two childhood friends find one adventure after another during the most exciting and dangerous summer of their lives.

This second installment of Hartnell’s the Adventures of Pete and Carol Ann series revisits 11-year-old heroes Pete and Carol Ann in Southern California circa 1955. The story, and their summer, begins ominously as Carol Ann crashes a go-cart while Pete and their other friends look on. Neither child is aware this will be the least exciting thing to happen to them in the coming months; a summer filled with surfing lessons, car accidents, adventurous tales from relatives on Route 66, and regular run-ins with the notorious Cruisers—a group of jelly-rolled teens always in the background, looking for trouble. The book is part memoir, and Hartnell paints a historically accurate picture of growing up in the ’50s, giving vivid accounts of the time by littering the story with period-specific set pieces and slang. Most of these are integrated effectively, but some descriptions become repetitive, even for younger readers, and too often characters parrot information unnecessarily. The book’s strength is its characters, from the hilarious antics of the children’s dog, to the adversarial dynamic between Pete’s spoiled sister and Carol Ann. These interactions fill the gaps from event to event, and make up for the story’s lack of overarching plot. Combining the engaging characters with the author’s commitment to consistently raising the stakes (along with plenty of foreshadowing), the book makes for a never-boring, all-ages read. Strong Christian overtones are also present, but they grow subtly and organically, strengthening as the characters need them.

A family-friendly combination of memoir and historical, Christian fiction, light on plot but with plenty of action and ’50s Americana.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1936119202

Page Count: 159

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2010

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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