An uplifting adventure as charismatic as its precocious protagonist.


A boy watches the only life he’s ever known burn to the ground in this novel.

In this coming-of-age tale, 12-year-old Simon Seeker is no ordinary boy. Up until the fire, he had lived with his recluse father, a free-thinking former children’s novelist, on a vast farm. Their main interaction with the outside world came in the form of monthly visits from his father’s childhood friend Roger, a city-dwelling lawyer who often had little patience for Simon. When his father is diagnosed with cancer, Simon becomes his caretaker, executing his final wishes—or most of them, anyway. On the night Simon’s home burns with his father in it, the boy is supposed to stay and wait for Roger, now his guardian. He will shepherd Simon to Wind Lake School, an experimental farming school where Roger and the boy’s father first met. Instead, Simon sets out on his own, and his journeys, along with Roger’s subsequent search for him, bring together an unlikely crew, including a kindly trucker named Ben Pyle and maternal figure Jenna, a sex worker he meets while staying in what he doesn’t quite realize is a brothel. In Boston, where Simon settles, his knowledge of plants and animals astounds a popular TV host who interviews him, transforming Simon into a new star of the ecological movement (“The Stardust Kid”). Roger’s vaguely nefarious scheme to whisk Simon away from his new friends and off to boarding school eventually reveals the attorney’s own complex notions of love, companionship, and home, though his arc could be made more explicit. Wallace’s (The Starlight Medallions, 2010, etc.) Simon is an otherworldly enough combination of wise and naïve (“I saw his soul go up among the stars” is how he describes watching his father’s body burn) for readers to suspend disbelief at certain fantastical series of events. The stirring story will move the audience along its many twists and will manage to charm along the way. 

An uplifting adventure as charismatic as its precocious protagonist.

Pub Date: May 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-7205-5

Page Count: 330

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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