ANNIE’S WAR

By 1946, the war is over, but not for Annie Leigh, whose life has been upended: Her father is MIA and her mother cannot cope with being a mother. Annie Leigh lives with her grandmother, with no word coming directly from her mother. This unexplained lapse creates a hole in the plotline. Everyone hides difficult issues from her, so perhaps her mother’s silence is another example, but with family issues unexplained, the first-person narration doesn’t always work. Annie is too clueless to be interesting, and her understanding of life is younger than she is. Additionally, she lacks awareness about race issues, puzzling over the community’s cold shoulder as soon as African-American Gloria Jean is hired as Grandmother’s bookkeeper. The first time Gloria Jean is stalked, harassed and attacked by local KKK wannabes, who are one-sided foils, she courageously puts her body between the marauders and Annie Leigh. When similar incidents occur, though precautions could have easily been taken, the scene is no longer realistic. There are some nice moments where tinges of humor, apt descriptions and character development play vividly. But despite moments of danger in between thoughtful narration, the plot trudges too slowly to maintain interest. This first novel begs a rewrite. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5325-7

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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