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Two deaths hold dominance over this tale narrated by Charley Callaghan. Soon after his Irish family immigrates to Vancouver, his beloved ma dies after a long bout with cancer. While Charley and younger sister Annie try to cope with their loss, Charley finds himself disconnected. Two bullies harass him constantly until new (and effeminate) student Benny becomes their target. Charley sees their cruelty, but does not intervene, too absorbed in his own troubles and secretly relieved that he is no longer the victim. Then Benny commits suicide, leaving a note referring to his constant tormentors. Charley, wracked with guilt, tries to confess his cowardice to Benny’s mom but cannot bring himself to follow through. Instead, he visits her each day, doing chores and providing company. Charley is ultimately able to rise to the occasion in a slightly improbable episode of family violence. The very Celtic inclusion of the ghost of Charley’s ma appearing and giving him advice is perhaps unnecessary, and the frequent Irish slang may confuse American readers. While melodramatic, the topics of bullying, cowardice and peer pressure unfortunately remain all too relevant. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-88899-701-2

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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