OKAY FOR NOW

It’s 1968. The Vietnam War and Apollo 11 are in the background, and between a war in a distant land and a spacecraft heading to the moon, Doug Swieteck starts a new life in tiny Marysville, N.Y. He hates “stupid Marysville,” so far from home and his beloved Yankee Stadium, and he may have moved away, but his cruel father and abusive brothers are still with him. Readers of the Newbery Honor–winning The Wednesday Wars (2007) will remember Doug, now less edgy and gradually more open to the possibilities of life in a small town. Each chapter opens with a print of a John James Audubon painting, and Mr. Powell, the town librarian, teaches Doug to paint and see the world as an artist. He meets pretty Lillian Spicer, just the feisty friend Doug needs, and a whole cast of small-town characters opens Doug to what he might be in the world. This is Schmidt’s best novel yet—darker than The Wednesday Wars and written with more restraint, but with the same expert attention to voice, character and big ideas. By the end of this tale, replete with allusions to Our Town, Doug realizes he’s pretty happy in Marysville, where holding hands with the green-eyed girl—and a first kiss—rival whatever might be happening on the moon. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-15260-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty.

GAME SEVEN

Sixteen-year-old Julio Ramirez Jr. dreams of being a junior Nacional and playing for Cuba against the best young players around the world.

Baseball is “practically a religion” in Cuba, and Julio’s father was like a Cuban god, an all-star pitcher for the Cuban National Team. Now, having defected, he’s a star for the Miami Marlins. But instead of pride, Julio feels resentment toward his father for abandoning his family to a life of poverty while he, the great El Fuego, lives the high life in Miami with his multimillion-dollar contract. Moreover, Julio’s baseball dreams may not come true: How can he be trusted to leave the country when his father defected; won’t he do the same? So Julio defects too, and in a tense and slightly comic scene, he drives to Florida in a green ’59 Buick that’s been converted into a boat. Julio’s reconciliation with his father is handled deftly in its poignant awkwardness, and baseball action is appropriately exciting, though the notion that Julio is allowed to hang out with his father during Game 7 of the World Series is seriously implausible. Volponi wisely shies away from a tidy, inspirational ending but does leave room for hope for reconciliation.

An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-78518-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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