ATHLETIC SHORTS

Six short stories, five of them about characters from Crutcher's novels. The protagonists are involved in sports, but the real theme is growing—grappling with something tough and finding the courage to carry on. For instance, in ``A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune'' (originally published in Connections, 1989, edited by Don Gallo), huge Angus has been elected Senior Winter Ball King as a joke: he can't dance. Too proud to stay away yet terrified to go, his problems are complicated by his secret love for the elected queen and by the fact that kids have always teased him because both his parents are gay. With wry courage, Angus achieves a triumph that should lighten any reader's spirits. The so-vulnerable Lionel (Stotan!) tries desperately to forgive the boy who caused his parents' and brother's deaths; less successfully, ``Telephone Man'' (The Crazy Horse Electric Game) is slowly loosening the heavy racism placed on him by his beloved father. In ``The Pin,'' Johnny wrestles his father in a can't-win battle neither wants to win—or lose; ``The Other Pin'' is about a wrestler in love with the girl he's supposed to beat at an upcoming match. Finally, ``In the Time I Get,'' Louie Banks (Running Loose) overcomes another kind of prejudice when he befriends a stranger who has AIDS. An involving group of stories, somewhat uneven in focus but all thought-provoking and discussable. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1991

ISBN: 0-688-10816-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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