Bogged down by a disconnected main character and overwhelming implausibility.

Kingdom of Glass

In this YA novel, an orphaned high schooler develops fantastical abilities that put those around him at risk.

What father, upon discovering that a child molester has hold of his child, wouldn’t fly into a murderous rage? Seven-year-old Robert Lawson’s father does exactly that; but instead of being hailed as a hero, he’s made the victim of a crusading district attorney who manages, unrealistically, to get the man convicted of first-degree murder. The sleepy town of North Fork, Calif.—which boasts one grocery store and one elementary school teacher—constructs a special detention center with an execution room, apparently just for this one man. Most implausibly, the imprisonment, trial and death by injection all take place within about nine months. Soon, Robert’s mother dies of cancer, and he’s sent to a grim residential care complex, then finally to a foster mother. Even though Robert never leaves North Fork, and his father’s execution (which Robert witnessed) must be the biggest news the town has ever seen, he forgets how his father died and no one reminds him. By high school, things are looking up for Robert: Some would-be bullies back off in great pain after trying to threaten him, he makes a friend and he even has a girlfriend. But then everyone in his school except him becomes deathly ill. The small-town mayor, who wields an unlikely amount of power, has Robert whisked away without due process to a prisonlike hospital. There, based on the theory that he caused the illnesses, he’s interrogated, kept under guard in solitary confinement without books, Internet or visitors, and subjected to vague, painful tests. Robert decides he must run away, if only to protect people from himself. In the wilderness, he makes an important animal friend and learns more about himself, his abilities and how to control them, setting the stage for the next volume in a planned series. In his debut, Ramirez is at his best in scenes between Robert and his best friend, Henry; their dialogue is lively and natural, and Robert comes to life in ways he doesn’t otherwise in the book. Beyond that, very little in the book feels natural, with many events straining credulity. Robert’s reactions are mostly flat and remote, even when events are at their strangest and saddest. Instead of building up the suspense, the pacing lags, while several continuity errors—like a 7-year-old doing eighth-grade homework—also get in the way. The last chapter leaves hope that the next entry in this series, when Robert finally harnesses his abilities, will be more satisfying.

Bogged down by a disconnected main character and overwhelming implausibility.

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0983419884

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2012

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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