THROWING SHADOWS

Throwing shadows, kindling flames: each of the five innocuous short stories included here ends in a sort of character-defining gesture or understanding. In the first Ned, a young shark-tooth collector in Florida, hands over a prize find to an envious, pesty old man. Another boy's mother exhibits similar generosity toward an antique-dealer couple who got her started in the business but resent her superior talent for it. In an old people's home, young Phillip tapes a crusty Hungarian lady's life story, then does both her and the other inmates a good turn by arranging for her to tape the others for the institution's library—but their universal eagerness is simplistically overdone; and when Phillip is tacitly rebuked by one old lady's blue tattoo from Auschwitz, the reference seems merely inappropriate, the story too bland to justify its use. Avery, who complains of being a "catchee"—police keep stopping him for what only seems like thievery or whatever—is reassured by his older brother that the experience will make him "very honest and very brave." And a young Ecuadorean tour guide helps a hustling village boy to learn that the voice of true manhood need not be loud. In the first two stories the shark-tooth collector's mother is said to be from Thailand, though she sounds American if anything, and the "catchee" refers once to his black skin, though his tone again is just homogenized American—so why? All the stories are more rounded and sprinkled with anecdote than what is usually called didactic in children's fiction, yet all the characters—and their stories—are so reduced to those final moments of truth or virtue shining forth that the experience is a mild and managed one.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1979

ISBN: 1416949593

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1979

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Wonderful, indeed

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THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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