After a strong beginning, this atmospheric but overstuffed novel flounders, rallying at the end to pull off a touching...


An emotional meltdown at a figure skating competition gets 12-year-old Kaitlin kicked out of her high-status skating club and jettisoned by her longtime coach in this middle-grade sports novel.

Rejected by the rest of the respected clubs, Kaitlin must join a rink filled with misfits and problem skaters that is seen as a joke in her hypercompetitive world. There’s a lot of great stuff in Nall’s figure skating novel, narrated in the first person and largely aimed at girls. The atmosphere is particularly redolent, and the setup—Kaitlin’s outburst and its unexpected life-changing aftermath—gives fascinating insight into the largely veiled world of junior competitive skating. Although a technically adept skater, what’s keeping Kaitlin back is her inability to make the emotional inner connection she needs to skate her heart out. How she learns to do this is the stuff of the duller and more muddled middle, which features more characters and situations than the novel can effectively handle. The formerly rule-following Kaitlin rebels in small but important ways, finds the courage to ask for what she wants, crushes on a cute boy and makes real friends. Unfortunately, Nall’s thesis, that this journey gives Kaitlin the emotional experience she needs to soar as an artist, fails to convince.

After a strong beginning, this atmospheric but overstuffed novel flounders, rallying at the end to pull off a touching finish. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1911-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Certain to steal hearts.


In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.


The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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