MYSTERIOUS MISS SLADE

The author of Spider Sparrow (2000) again looks to society’s margins, chronicling the growth of an unlikely friendship between a seedy, solitary septuagenarian and a newly arrived young family. Maggie Slade has a patch on one eye (relic of a Guy Fawkes Day accident), lives in a shabby caravan without electricity or running water, and is widely regarded by local children as a witch. Too new in the village to have been warned off, young Patsy and Jim Reader wander by and, once they get used to the barnyard reek that hangs about Maggie and her property, have a delightful visit. Even the children’s wary parents are soon disarmed by her sweet, gracious manner. King-Smith makes it clear that Maggie lives the way she does not from necessity—in fact, she turns out to be a baron’s daughter, with a churn full of pound notes and gold sovereigns buried out back—but by choice. In Kronheimer’s frequent pen-and-ink illustrations, her content shines out beneath her raffish exterior. Still, meeting the Readers prompts her to see at last how far she’s let herself go, and her conscientious new friends prove to be johnnys-on-the-spot, first when she takes a nasty spill, then when a would-be robber pays a call. The climactic bits give shape to the story, but it hardly needs it: with a donkey to ride, plenty of playful dogs and cats, and a neverending supply of chips and cookies, Maggie makes a neighbor almost any child would love to have. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-517-80045-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THE RIGHT-UNDER CLUB

Summertime finds a strange combination of five middle-schoolers high up in a leafy tree house in their newly formed support group, the “R.U. Club,” where the secret is what “R.U.” means and what they do in the club. They could not be more unlike one another and yet each deeply understands what it is like to live in a new family because of death or divorce: They feel like leftovers, “even though we are right under their noses.” Each one takes a turn to describe her concern or worry. Anonymously, in written suggestions and then in group brainstorming sessions, they discuss solutions. Then as the girls put their trust in collective wisdom and thoughtfully apply effort and action through careful heartfelt adherence to club rules, camaraderie develops. Mounting interest in the characters and their adjustments to family life builds to a too-sweet conclusion, which could be redressed in a sequel, yet five genuine multifaceted characters together with their families make a large cast of characters. which Deriso handles adeptly. An interesting group that begs for a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73334-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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