Action and humor make the hard lessons go down easy.

THE MAGIC TRAP

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 5

Sibs Evan and Jessie face their toughest physical and emotional challenges yet in this concluding—and best so far—sequel to The Lemonade War (2007).

Zeroing in with uncommon perspicacity on the push-and-pull relationship between the two children—Evan a thoroughly average 10-year-old who provides the stability that his much brighter but high-strung little sister lacks—Davies casts them into a series of strenuous tests. These begin with decidedly mixed responses to the unexpected but well-timed appearance of their long-divorced and absent father just as their responsible, hardworking mother is about to cancel an important business trip for lack of child care. Unfortunately, Dad, a self-absorbed war journalist, turns out to be so lacking in the parenting department that he suddenly jets off in the night, leaving the children alone just hours before a Category 1 hurricane hits town. By leaning on each other they triumphantly survive two days of flooding and nonstop terror before airports reopen and their mother can get back. Later, she explains that though some people just aren’t “meant to be parents,” it “doesn’t make them bad, and you can still love them.” Adults will likely condemn this as undeserved mitigation for despicable behavior; child readers, being more vulnerable to parental failures, may find it a hard truth that serves as a means for both coping with and forgiving them.

Action and humor make the hard lessons go down easy. (magic-trick instructions) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-05289-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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