A MOTHER TO EMBARRASS ME

Laura’s big problem is the antics of her mother, who can be guaranteed to garner attention in unusual ways. Mom is a sculptor, ex-model, horrible cook, loves singing loud to old-time rock n’roll, wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers in public, and—worst of all—is pregnant at the ripe old age of 38. Oh horrors, her parents have actually been doing “it.” An only child, 12-year-old Laura has little to complain about. She has loving parents in a home with two acres of land, a great best friend, a crush on an older guy, and a passion for reading Richard Peck. Mom never truly does anything that isn’t cute or funny, but Laura is the only one who reacts. Dad’s no big improvement as his own embarrassing stunt at her first boy-girl party proves. The continuous bombardment of incidents that leaves Laura with an ongoing list of things she’d like to change about her mother seems increasingly vapid and silly as readers learn that there have been five miscarriages and that Mom is beloved by everyone else. The subplot about the neighbor boy who likes Laura and is all too aware that she has a crush on his older brother is equally void of tension. Middle-grade readers may or may not see the humor here—after all, it will sound very familiar. But Laura does have something of a change of heart and her list becomes one of helping her mother do better, rather than changing her completely. An also-ran to Alice or Anastasia. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-72922-7

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.

THE CLOCKWORK CROW

Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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