RAINING SARDINES

Enriquito and Ernestina are good friends in a small rural village in pre-revolutionary Cuba. On a morning when sardines rain from the sky, they also meet Aguas Clara, la Davinadora on her way to Havana, floating on a couch. Riding along for awhile, the two friends learn a bit about their future. Real life is full of family stories, and saving wild ponies from the evil machinations of the rich landowner in the area whose daughter is as greedy as her father. Soon Enriquito and Ernestina are caught up in keeping the wild ponies safe, understanding the lessons from the past and keeping themselves out of jail. The courtroom scene at the end maintains elements of magical realism as well as a dénouement worthy of a movie of the week. The happy ending is never in doubt, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. The Cuban cultural elements add flavor and spice to what is an essentially familiar melodramatic plot. Nostalgia in a fresh form. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59643-166-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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THE TIGER RISING

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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HOOT

The straight-arrow son of a maybe-federal agent (he’s not quite sure) turns eco-terrorist in this first offering for kids from one of detective fiction’s funniest novelists. Fans of Hiaasen’s (Basket Case, 2001, etc.) novels for adults may wonder how well his profane and frequently kinky writing will adapt to a child’s audience; the answer is, remarkably well. Roy Eberhardt has recently arrived in Florida; accustomed to being the new kid after several family moves, he is more of an observer than a participant. When he observes a bare-footed boy running through the subdivisions of Coconut Grove, however, he finds himself compelled to follow and, later, to ally himself with the strange boy called Mullet Fingers. Meanwhile, the dimwitted but appealingly dogged Officer Delinko finds himself compelled to crack the case of the mysterious vandals at the construction site of a new Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House—it couldn’t have anything to do with those cute burrowing owls, could it? The plot doesn’t overwhelm with surprises; even the densest readers will soon suss out the connections between Mullet Fingers, the owls, and Mother Paula’s steadfast denial of the owls’ existence. The fun lies in Hiaasen’s trademark twisted characters, including Dana Matherson, the class bully who regularly beats up on Roy and whose unwitting help Roy wickedly enlists; Beatrice Leep, Mullet Fingers’s fiercely loyal sister and co-conspirator; Curly, Mother Paula’s hilariously inept foreman; and Roy’s equally straight-arrow parents, who encourage him to do the right thing without exactly telling him how. Roy is rather surprisingly engaging, given his utter and somewhat unnatural wholesomeness; it’s his kind of determined innocence that sees through the corruption and compromises of the adult world to understand what must be done to make things right. If the ending is somewhat predictable, it is also entirely satisfying—Hoot is, indeed, a hoot. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-82181-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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