For sports and humor fans, this fast-paced romp through the ninth grade focuses on a boy trying to cope with his parents’ divorce. Hank, his siblings, and their father have moved to a tiny California coastal town after his parents’ separation. All are passionate tennis players. The long absences of Hank’s mother, a professional coach to star athletes, have destroyed the marriage, but the devastated Hank can’t stop scheming to bring his parents back together. Meanwhile, he covers his pain with humor and reluctantly befriends Tremont, his geeky next-door neighbor. Seeing the impossibility of avoiding Tremont, he induces the boy to lose weight and become more popular by defying their strict algebra teacher. Star student Tremont takes Hank under his wing academically and both make great strides toward success. Dramatic conflict continues as older brother Jerome, expected to become a high-earning professional tennis player, abandons the game. Hank virtually forces his brother to resume playing, but loses heart himself with the failure of his schemes to reunite his parents. The story veers from realism by making Hank and Jerome superstar jocks and by an all-too-easily won battle over the math teacher, but the constant humor in Hank’s voice saves the effort from complete fantasy. While Hank sounds a bit too mature for a 14-year-old, nevertheless the story moves along at a zippy pace and should keep young readers interested with its upbeat outlook and happy ending. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-8234-1706-9

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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The poster boy for relentless mischief-makers everywhere, first encountered in No, David! (1998), gives his weary mother a rest by going to school. Naturally, he’s tardy, and that’s but the first in a long string of offenses—“Sit down, David! Keep your hands to yourself! PAY ATTENTION!”—that culminates in an afterschool stint. Children will, of course, recognize every line of the text and every one of David’s moves, and although he doesn’t exhibit the larger- than-life quality that made him a tall-tale anti-hero in his first appearance, his round-headed, gap-toothed enthusiasm is still endearing. For all his disruptive behavior, he shows not a trace of malice, and it’ll be easy for readers to want to encourage his further exploits. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-48087-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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