CITY BOY

An AIDS orphan in Malawi grapples with loss, loneliness and lowered expectations in this prize-winning author’s first American release. After his mother passes away from “The Disease,” Sam Sangala is sent to stay with relatives in a remote village upcountry. But Sam’s urban upbringing little prepares him for rural life; the days of Google, Game Boy and electric blue trainers are long gone. As he clings fiercely to the last vestiges of his former life, a lively ensemble of country folk—including his kindly Aunt Mercy, a wizened AIDS patient and a motorbike enthusiast—go the distance to teach Sam that family and friends are what really count. This is a powerful portrait of poverty and hardship, evenly balanced with shades of hope. Michael’s simple prose subtly layers detail, building full-bodied descriptions of landscapes and characters, leaving no room for shortcuts. “The Disease” is dealt with forthrightly, accurately representing its pervasiveness in southern African society, and depictions of Sam’s grief for his mother are brutally heartrending. A stoic tale of surviving life’s uncertainties. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22310-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more