WHAT JAMIE SAW

An extremely intimate narrative about Jamie, nine, that opens in the middle of a traumatic scene-his mother's lover throws Jamie's baby half-sister across the room, and his mother catches her and then closely follows the state of the boy's soul as he, his mother, and the baby move out of the house and into a trailer on top of a mountain. Written in the third-person, entirely from Jamie's point of view, the book tries to describe what Jamie feels, but what he himself might not yet be able to articulate. To this end, the narrative organizes his experience obliquely, whether by employing a poetic and repetitive prose style in order to convey the uneven manner in which emotions or episodes unfold or by stepping back from the protagonist by posing a question"Just who did Jamie think was going to open that door?" only to return to him immediately for the answer. In effect, Coman (Tell Me Everything, 1993, etc.) speaks for her hero with the intuitive understanding and empathy of a mother. The subjective impressions that she records are unmistakably those of a young boy, and Jaime's subjectivity becomes increasingly convincing; the cumulative effect is mesmerizing. Reading this short novella, readers will find themselves quickly slipping into a mode of thought analogous to the protagonist's. It's a profound characterization and a remarkable achievement in a book about ordinary people trying to put their lives in order. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-886910-02-2

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Front Street/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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