NOT QUITE A STRANGER

The only real fly in 13-year-old Tottie’s ointment is when embarrassing moments are rendered as “universal truths” in her mother’s newspaper column for the world to read—until 17-year-old Zachary shows up, the spitting image of Tottie’s father. Zachary is the product of a med-school indiscretion and was presumed to have been adopted at birth. Zachary’s first-person narration alternates with Tottie’s, informing readers that his mother chose to raise him alone, and happily, until her death from cancer drives him to his father’s door. His numbness at the devastating turn of events that plunks him into the laps of strangers is effectively rendered, as is Tottie’s unreasoning anger at him for upsetting her world and her father for revealing feet of clay. That the family in its new configuration eventually adjusts is never really in question, but Rodowsky’s deliberate treatment allows her two main characters plenty of room to explore their feelings. If the secondary characters are more than a little too good to be true, this still does nothing to void the honest emotions of the newly joined siblings. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-35548-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more