Ten-year-old Ben learns a lesson about loyalty, obedience, and jealousy. Ben’s parents died in a car crash six years earlier and his great-grandmother insisted that Ben move in with her and Ben’s grandparents, stating firmly, “He’s our boy.” These three words have kept Ben on the straight and narrow, helping whenever he can and being a good, good boy. Ben likes his life, but begins to doubt himself when Elliot, the city boy, arrives and seems to have something negative to say about every detail of rural life. Sophisticated and worldly wise, Elliot has some of the material things that Ben lacks, even gets a dog put up for adoption. When wildfires move through the state one July, fireworks are forbidden. But Elliot goads Ben into shooting off just a couple, with a disastrous result. Though the depiction of the grandparents is warm and loving, the story is predictable and the rest of the secondary characters are wooden. This tale fails to ignite any sparks for the reader. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-31712-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday).


The portrait of a boy as a young rascal: Iggy doesn’t really mean to be “bad,” does he?

A narrator in an amusing direct address and somewhat adult voice serves as both apologist and somewhat bemused observer of three incidents recounted in 20 very short chapters. Iggy Frangi is 9 and in fourth grade. He likes his teacher and tolerates his family—mother, father, sisters Maribel (older) and Molly (younger). Like many people his age, Iggy doesn’t realize that something is wrong with what he is doing until either he is in the middle of doing it (and is reprimanded) or until it’s too late. Ricks’ cartoon illustrations portray Iggy and his family as white-presenting and his lively friends as slim boys with dark skin of various shades. In the first story Iggy defends his own honor and dignity with a strategy involving a skateboard, ladder, and trampoline in a way that only just avoids complete disaster. In the second, Iggy’s flair for going big gets slightly out of hand when he “los[es] his mind” in an incident involving shaving cream and lipstick. The third story involves his teacher and a minor injury and is an incident Iggy regrets “even years later.” Authorial asides combine with amusing cartoons (the universal strikethrough symbol is enlivened by repetitions of “nope” forming the outer circle) to enlist readers as co-conspirators.

Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1330-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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By keeping the focus squarely on their child characters, Williams and Mohammed illuminate the plight of refugee children without preaching or pontificating. When aid workers deliver a shipment of clothes, both Lina and Ferozi claim a sandal. When Ferozi’s grandmother points out the foolishness of wearing only one shoe, the girl offers her sandal to Lina. Ten-year-old Lina makes the best of what could have been a difficult and disappointing situation and suggests a different solution: The girls will share the pair, each wearing them on alternating days. As the days pass, readers see their growing friendship and observe the harsh conditions of the camp. Earth tones predominate, reflecting the dusty environment while also offering, in some scenes, a sense of warmth. The story ends with the friends’ separation. Lina’s family has received permission to emigrate to the United States. The girls’ decision to split the sandals once more ensures that their friendship won’t be forgotten, and it seems likely that their story will linger in listeners’ minds as well. Touching and true to life. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5296-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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