Adventure, inventiveness, and humor merge in this quirky, appealing tale.

AMELIA, THE MERBALLS AND THE EMERALD CANNON

From the Amelia's Amazing Space Adventures series , Vol. 3

A space-traveling girl continues gathering items to help save her alien friend’s sister in this third series outing.

In two previous children’s books, 8-year-old Amelia, a white girl with reddish hair, agreed to help Uglesnoo, a three-armed purple alien from Pluto, cure his ailing sister. A repelling crystal from Neptune will heal her, but that planet’s Queen Neep will barter it only in exchange for a long list of objects from around the solar system. Some the duo has already collected, like five boxes of dandelions from Earth. Next on the list: five pairs of flying shoes from Mercury, inhabited by Merballs. Hostile Venutons of Venus, the twosome’s last stop, try to prevent Amelia and Uglesnoo from trading with the Merballs (“Do not keep these criminals. Bring us the prisoners”). But the Merballs are basically friendly and don’t want trouble. They have problems of their own: They are suffering from asteroid strikes that create a sickening fog of dust, hospitalizing many. After another asteroid hit, Amelia and Uglesnoo come under suspicion and are briefly imprisoned. They fall into an old iron mine, from which they escape. Amelia develops a cunning plan to smash the asteroids with a cannon of her design, using raw materials from the mine. If she’s successful and a grateful Empress Ping rewards them with flying shoes, they’ll be one step closer to curing Uglesnoo’s sister—and maybe Amelia will have a chance to try out Mercury’s inviting slide transportation system. Blanchard (Amelia, the Venutons and the Golden Cage, 2016, etc.) writes a fast-paced tale with a young heroine who’s a quick thinker. Designing and crafting the cannon shows Amelia’s ingenuity and reflects the current interest in maker culture. There’s also plenty of silly fun, such as the green slime floor in the prison cell that almost engulfs Amelia and Uglesnoo, as well as cool tech, like the Plutonian’s multifunctional bed, which plays a role in their escape. Palmisano’s (An Amazing Circus of Phonograms, 2017) illustrations are colorful and three-dimensional, the mix of Earth and alien characters having a family resemblance in their googly eyes.

Adventure, inventiveness, and humor merge in this quirky, appealing tale.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-981496-11-2

Page Count: 70

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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