BEN AND THE SUDDEN TOO-BIG FAMILY

When asked about his philosophy of life in school, ten-year-old Ben Mitchell posits that some things are all-right and some things are not-all-right. He and his dad Mitch are a two-man crew until Mitch meets Casey. Ben thinks Casey’s all right; he’s not too distressed when Mitch marries her. Ben is a little less certain things can remain in the all-right column when Mitch and Casey decide to go ahead with the adoption of a Chinese baby girl whom Casey had been planning to adopt as a single parent. Maudie Mingmei can cause problems, but she’s actually all-right enough. Then the family attends a week-long party for Casey’s parents, and the extended family is just too big. Ben feels lost until he finds a couple of kindred souls in Casey’s aunt Nora and his new cousin JJ. Rodowsky’s latest makes excellent bibliotherapy for boys with the blended-family blues. Ben’s appealing first-person narration sounds like the musings of a real kid, and his story has a refreshing lack of major trauma. Even readers who aren’t in his situation will identify. (Fiction 9-12)

Pub Date: April 11, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-30658-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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A delicious confection and much more: it shows that the human heart is delicate, that it matters, and that it must be...

CIRCUS MIRANDUS

One strange afternoon, 10-year-old Micah Tuttle finds out that magic is real.

Micah always thought Grandpa Ephraim’s wild stories of the centuries-old Circus Mirandus were spun solely for his amusement. But when his dying grandfather writes a letter to the “Lightbender,” hoping to call in the miracle the magician had promised him as a boy, Micah learns the stories were true, and the appearance of Ms. Chintzy, the circus’ cantankerous parrot messenger, clinches the deal. Happily, Micah finds a loyal if somewhat challenging friend to help him track down the elusive light-bending magician: the magic-leery, science-minded Jenny Mendoza. Their budding rapport is nuanced and complex, a refreshing illustration of how absolute like-mindedness is not a prerequisite for friendship. On one level, the book is a fantastical circus romp, with fortunetelling vultures and “a wallaby that could burp the Greek alphabet.” On another, it’s both serious and thick with longing: Micah’s ache for the companionship of his once-vital guardian-grandfather; Grandpa Ephraim’s boyhood yearning for his absent father, as fleshed out in flashbacks; the circus founders’ desire to keep enchantment alive in a world where “faith is such a fragile thing.”

A delicious confection and much more: it shows that the human heart is delicate, that it matters, and that it must be handled with care. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42843-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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SO B. IT

Resilient Heidi It is the daughter of mentally deficient So B. It, but it’s really neighbor Bernadette who raises her. Piling on the difficulties, Bernadette is agoraphobic and though managing to reach out to So B. and Heidi without leaving her house, Dette is unable to do anything like normal living. Heidi is homeschooled by Bernadette and finds her unusual life to be satisfactory except for curiosity about her mother’s past, as evidenced by “soof,” her favorite of Mama’s 23 words that also function as chapter titles. Determined to investigate the past, Heidi follows a few convenient clues to lead her on a cross-country bus journey from Reno, Nevada, to Liberty, New York. Some of the details, such as Heidi’s lucky streak, are not terribly credible, but the heart of the search for home and history is one that readers will find compelling. Most of the people Heidi meets on her trip gradually take on fullness and depth, but this was never intended to be literal or realistic. Three stars on the soggy-hanky index. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-623622-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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