Almond’s fans will willingly follow him on yet another journey into a surreal, murky world that may be dream or reality. Three orphans, labeled "damaged children" by their well-meaning custodian, seek freedom by sailing down the river on a raft fashioned emblematically from three doors. When they run aground in the silt of Black Middens, a mysterious, web-fingered child, Heaven Eyes, and the threatening man she calls Grampa rescue them. Grampa and Heaven Eyes live a reclusive life in the rubble of an abandoned print works. Almond sets this scene well: "The walls and ceilings creaked and groaned. Dust seethed all around . . . Shadows shifted . . . Dangling doors led into pitch-black rooms . . ." Grampa enigmatically keeps a secret journal, patrols against "ghosts," and digs in the river mud for treasure and Saints. In one of his quests, years earlier, Grampa pulled the tiny Heaven Eyes from the mud and has raised and protected her in isolation. Heaven Eyes, who speaks a distinct, beautiful, childlike dialect has the ability to "see through all the darkness in the world to the joy that lies beneath." Mysteries abound: who is Grampa? what are the ghosts? who is the "Saint"? and what is Heaven Eye's backstory? Almond chooses to answer only some. The story teems with symbols: darkness and light, angels and wings, birth and death, and the river that flows throughout. The circular journey works well as the three orphans with Heaven Eyes return to Whitegates Children's Home, changed and with greater self-knowledge. Some may quibble with a conclusion, in which one orphan's mother makes a dramatic reappearance, but Almond is essentially an idealist and readers will be satisfied. Not as elaborately layered as Kit's Wilderness (2000), the winner of the 2001 Printz Award, but brilliant in its technical control of setting, theme, and plot. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32770-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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