MY OCEAN

In a long, introspective letter to the sea that surrounds his island, a Cuban lad reflects on his inner and outer lives. Feeling sometimes as if everyone is leaving for “El Norte,” 12-year-old Enrique notes the steady departures of relatives and acquaintances against a backdrop of school days, family visits and walks along the beach. The prose is often lyrical; on the relationship between his country and the United States, for instance, he writes: “There’s so much distance between us. So much forgetting, so many good-byes. So much silence because of words never said. So many tears never cried and laughter never heard.” On the other hand, because he relates everything from expressions of his growing sense of isolation to multiple encounters with bandits and sharks in the same level voice, there’s a detached quality to his narrative that is likely to leave most readers unengaged. Not as intensely felt as such similar monologues as the author’s Letters from Alain (2008) or Teresa Cardenas’s Letters to My Mother (2006), this still has value for its focus on the ones who stay behind. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-88899-797-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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NO MATTER WHAT

Small, a very little fox, needs some reassurance from Large in the unconditional love department. If he is grim and grumpy, will he still be loved? “ ‘Oh, Small,’ said Large, ‘grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.’ “ So it goes, in a gentle rhyme, as Large parries any number of questions that for Small are very telling. What if he were to turn into a young bear, or squishy bug, or alligator? Would a mother want to hug and hold these fearsome animals? Yes, yes, answers Large. “But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?” There is comfort in Gliori’s pages, but it is a result of repetition and not the imagery; this is a quick fix, not an enduring one, but it eases Small’s fears and may well do the same for children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202061-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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A YEAR DOWN YONDER

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 2

Set in 1937 during the so-called “Roosevelt recession,” tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn’t “even have a picture show.”

This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with “eyes in the back of her heart.” Peck’s slice-of-life novel doesn’t have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader’s interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language—“She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites”—and Mary Alice’s shrewd, prickly observations: “Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city.”

Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2518-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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