A magic hat, a missing parent, not one but two eccentric adult acquaintances and a couple of travelers from outer space all...

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THE SECRET SPIRAL

Mathematics, humor and fantasy just don’t add up in this awkward, misguided effort.

A magic hat, a missing parent, not one but two eccentric adult acquaintances and a couple of travelers from outer space all complicate 10-year-old Brooklyn-born Flor Bernoulli’s life in this briskly paced adventure. Unfortunately, the convoluted plot, flat characters and sometimes-too-obvious (a thin woman known as Mrs. Plump), sometimes-obscure (a cat called Libenits) wordplay combine to make Neimark’s first novel for children decidedly less than the sum of its parts (she wrote Bloodsong, 1993, for adults as Jill Neimark). Flor’s escapades start when she discovers that the friendly local baker, Dr. Pi (really), is actually the protector of a secret recipe—make that math equation—that allows him to, among other things, see the future and slow down time. Like Flor, readers are likely to say “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Since they’re free to put the book down, though, it’s unlikely they’ll bother to travel through time and space, across oceans and down spiraling lighthouse stairs, into a “mending a broken family” story and back home again for the resurrection of a dead alien only to discover that the whole long saga is apparently a set-up for the next installment.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8040-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet.

PLUTO'S SECRET

AN ICY WORLD'S TALE OF DISCOVERY

Is it a planet? A dwarf planet? What’s up with that mysterious body that, even in our best telescopes, floats tantalizingly at the edge of visibility?

Pairing a lighthearted narrative in a hand-lettered–style typeface with informally drawn cartoon illustrations, this lively tale of astronomical revelations begins with the search for “Planet X.” It then sweeps past Pluto’s first sighting by Clyde Tombaugh and its naming by 11-year-old Venetia Burney to the later discovery of more icy worlds—both in our solar system’s Kuiper belt and orbiting other stars. Meanwhile, sailing along with a smug expression, the mottled orange planetoid is “busy dancing with its moons. / Cha-cha / Cha-cha-cha” and Kuiper buddies as it waits for Earth’s astronomers to realize at last that it’s different from the other planets (“BINGO!”) and needs a new classification. Ceres inexplicably rates no entry in the gallery of dwarf planets, and the closing glossary isn’t exactly stellar (“World: Any object in space”), but fans of Basher’s postmodern science surveys will feel right at home with the buoyant mix of personification and hard fact.

A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet. (photos and additional detail, “Note from the Museum,” suggested reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0423-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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