AL CAPSELLA AND THE WATCHDOGS

In an engaging sequel to The Heroic Life of Al Capsella (1990), Al continues his affectionate sparring with parents who are almost as outlandish as they seem to his embarrassed 15-year- old eyes. Mrs. Capsella, successful author of romances, has given Al a notably lumpy, badly sewn, homemade beanbag chair that proves to contain all the ``Home Duties presents'' (apron, egg- timer, etc.) her mother had forced on her. Worse, she and his friends' parents are forever observing their young, resorting to ruses like borrowing each other's dogs in order to spy on unsupervised parties; they are also taking courses on how to deal with adolescents, resulting in transparently uncharacteristic tact and sympathetic concern. Meanwhile, Mrs. Capsella's truly bizarre parents come to stay and comment on her every move, precipitating the two younger generations into an alliance of sorts. The flavor here may be Australian, but the anxieties and fencing between parent and child are universal. What's special is Al's mellow tone: he may find his parents inconvenient or incomprehensible, but he views them with an amused tolerance that's both hilarious and endearing (and, one hopes, contagious). (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: June 28, 1991

ISBN: 0-8050-1598-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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