Gritty detail aside, this lyrical tale of an abused child's survival and empowerment is more fable than yet another story of a dysfunctional family facing down its demons. Set in her native Florida, a place of sandy scrub and rundown motor-courts, Fowler's tale (River of Hidden Dreams, 1994, etc.) offers a child, Avocet Abigail Jackson (Bird for short), as the chronicler of one redneck family's misery and mayhem. Glory Marie, the mother, gave Bird and her older sister, Phoebe, birds' names because birds could ``fly above'' the debris in their lives. And the girls will need to do a lot of metaphorical flying if they are to survive their increasingly violent childhood. Bird and her dirt- poor family live in an orange grove near the small store her parents run. Billy, the father, is suicidal and prone to drunken rages in which he beats his children and fights with his wife. But the family's troubles multiply when Glory Marie buys a car of her own and spends time away from home. Mad with jealousy, Billy pays someone to beat up Glory Marie, and then—horrified by what he's done—he disappears, only to be found a few days' later, a suicide. Mother and daughters head for Tampa, where Glory Marie finds work and a home for the family at the Travelers Motel. Phoebe does well at school, but Bird doesn't—she takes to staying home instead, befriending Miss Zora, a mysterious black woman who lives in one of the motel cabins. It's Miss Zora, a healer and a wise woman, who saves them all when the grieving Glory Marie starts drinking heavily and badly beats Bird. Under Miss Zora's wing (as it were), the two girls can fly away to safety while their mother heals. A vividly modern if schematic fairy tale with the usual goodies and baddies appropriately updated.

Pub Date: May 7, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14129-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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One of a four-book series designed to help the very young prepare for new siblings, this title presents a toddler-and-mother pair (the latter heavily pregnant) as they read about new babies, sort hand-me-downs, buy new toys, visit the obstetrician and the sonographer, speculate and wait. Throughout, the child asks questions and makes exclamations with complete enthusiasm: “How big is the baby? What does it eat? I felt it move! Is it a boy or girl?” Fuller’s jolly pictures present a biracial family that thoroughly enjoys every moment together. It’s a bit oversimplified, but no one can complain about the positive message it conveys, appropriately, to its baby and toddler audience. The other titles in the New Baby series are My New Baby (ISBN: 978-1-84643-276-7), Look at Me! (ISBN: 978-1-84643-278-1) and You and Me (ISBN: 978-1-84643-277-4). (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84643-275-0

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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