MOTHER POEMS

Having taken on the departure—and subsequent return—of a father in The Way a Door Closes (illustrated by Shane W. Evans, 2003) and Keeping the Night Watch (illustrated by E.B. Lewis, 2008), Smith turns to the loss of a mother. “[C]an’t nobody love me / like my momma do,” exults the narrator, a little girl at the opening of the book. Her mother is the center of her life, her stepfather notable only when he’s away and she can snuggle in bed with her mother. So when her mother dies, the now-preteen girl is a “motherless shell.” The raw emotion contained in these poems is undeniably visceral. But the unnamed narrator seems to exist in a vacuum; the glancing references to friends and relatives are not enough to answer readers’ natural questions about whom she lives with, how they help (or not) the grieving child—a curiosity after two such piercing looks at the effect of a loss on an entire family. The author supplies her own visual accompaniment, lovely torn-paper collages that complement but do not fill the gaps in the text. Beautiful but incomplete. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8231-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING

Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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JAM!

THE STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC

A busy page design—artily superimposed text and photos, tinted portraits, and break-out boxes—and occasionally infelicitous writing (“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie became . . . bandleader of the quintet at the Onyx Club, from which bebop got its name”) give this quick history of jazz a slapdash air, but Lee delves relatively deeply into the music’s direct and indirect African roots, then goes beyond the usual tedious tally of names to present a coherent picture of specific influences and innovations associated with the biggest names in jazz. A highly selective discography will give readers who want to become listeners a jump start; those seeking more background will want to follow this up with James Lincoln Collier’s Jazz (1997). (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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