MOONSHINE

Blackwood goes from Elizabethan England (Shakespeare Stealer, not reviewed, 1998) to a Depression-Era Ozarks setting for this poker-faced tale of a self-reliant but naive teenager. Although he and his mother are dirt poor and he doesn’t remember his father, Thad is an optimist; he has a girl, a loyal bluetick hound, and a good if risky source of income, selling corn liquor for Dayman, a sour, one-armed recluse with a hidden still. He begins to get a glimmer of other lives and possibilities when Harlan James comes to town, claiming to be a land scout for tobacco growers. Harlan is well-dressed, a free spender, and free with his time, too; he allows Thad to use his fancy tackle to land a huge catfish, teaches him how to use a rifle, and even loans him clothes for a date. Blackwood knits characters together with threads of “moonshine”—not liquor, but a steady diet of stories, jokes, yarns, and outright lies’so that the story becomes a study in layers and varieties of honesty. Thad’s feeling of betrayal is sharp but brief when he finds out that Harlan is a revenue agent, stalking Dayman’s still, which literally explodes in his face. Blackwood drops plenty of hints that both Harlan and Dayman are more than they seem, so alert readers are always ahead of Thad, which adds drama; the twin revelations that Dayman is Thad’s father and that Harlan’s friendliness wasn’t all moonshine close this backwoods bildungsroman on a high note. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7614-5056-4

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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THE COLORS OF US

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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LAUGH-ETERIA

Florian’s seventh collection of verse is also his most uneven; though the flair for clever rhyme that consistently lights up his other books, beginning with Monster Motel (1993), occasionally shows itself—“Hello, my name is Dracula/My clothing is all blackula./I drive a Cadillacula./I am a maniacula”—too many of the entries are routine limericks, putdowns, character portraits, rhymed lists that fall flat on the ear, or quick quips: “It’s hard to be anonymous/When you’re a hippopotamus.” Florian’s language and simple, thick-lined cartoons illustrations are equally ingenuous, and he sticks to tried-and-true subjects, from dinosaurs to school lunch, but the well of inspiration seems dry; revisit his hilarious Bing Bang Boing (1994) instead. (index) (Poetry. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202084-5

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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