SAVING THE PLANET AND STUFF

A teenaged underachiever comes into his own while getting an eye-opening look at office politics in this sidesplitter. Having lost one summer job (“I WASN’T FIRED!!! The job ended. That’s entirely different”), Michael jumps at the opportunity to be gofer at an environmentalist magazine published by committed back-to-the-Earthers Walt and Nora. The Earth’s Wife turns out to have a small but frothy staff that includes Amber, an intimidating but feasible prospect for summer romance, and Todd, a slimy new Managing Editor intent on changing the magazine’s orientation from Eco-Issues to glossy Styles and Profiles. Displaying both glib irreverence and a wonderful ability to irritate his elders, Michael not only manages to hold his own, but discovers that everyone has dirty little secrets—even Nora (plays golf) and Walt (is a closet carnivore); he also gives Nora a fresh shot of idealism when it matters most, and trumps all of his online buddies’ summer experiences by helping to break a major industrial scandal. Memorable, hilarious, and featuring a likable, unlikely hero. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23761-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2003

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE CORPS OF THE BARE-BONED PLANE

Not exactly a change of pace for Horvath, this slightly less bizarre (only slightly) tale than her usual quirkiness assembles a quartet of grieving loners in a baroque mansion on a remote British Columbian island. Having lost their parents to an accident in faraway Zimbabwe, teenaged cousins Jocelyn and Meline are sent to live with their reclusive uncle Marten—an ex-stockbroker with absolutely no social skills. In desperation, he hires as cook/housekeeper Mrs. Mendelbaum, an old Austrian whose family has predeceased her, and who smuggles in bottles of a barbiturate “cough syrup” to which she and Jocelyn become addicted. These four trade off elaborate monologues that take the tale past months of steady rainfall, a perfectly hideous and hysterically funny Christmas, Meline’s effort to reconstruct an airplane from wrecked parts and the revelation of an older family tragedy, which explains a lot. While Meline’s final monologue is perhaps a too-facile tying up of loose strings, readers will sink deeply into the story, finding the truth under the eccentricity. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-31553-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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