A sad and unfortunate situation of child abandonment and abuse is turned around in a consuming story that offers realism, hope, and psychological fortitude. Ten-year-old Willow Wind Jones and her four-year-old half-brother, Twig, have been left, as before, by their drug-addicted mother with an older, sick woman in a welfare hotel. Three months have gone by with no sign of their mother, Angel, and when the old woman collapses, probably dying, Willow assesses their circumstances and makes the difficult decision to seek help from the local police station. Social services intervenes and the children are returned to the supportive home of their grandmother who quickly begins the difficult process of establishing a trusting, protective, and loving environment. Little (Emma’s Yucky Brother, 2001, etc.) has skillfully developed the characters of the two children through Willow’s mental anguish as she has silently struggled alone for the last several years with her fears and bore the responsibility of serving as surrogate mother, teacher, and even stable adult to her physically and psychologically scarred brother. Twig’s physical abuse has resulted in his deafness and slow developmental progress, making him appear to be wild and uncontrollable in times of duress. Grandmother begins the legal process for guardianship and Angel eventually calls to make empty promises to the children, once again. Little has set the major portion of the story in a similar home life to her farmstead in Ontario, complete with animals and a blind uncle who is also a children’s author. Emotionally absorbing, with a somewhat convenient ending, but satisfying all the same. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-88856-7

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Summertime finds a strange combination of five middle-schoolers high up in a leafy tree house in their newly formed support group, the “R.U. Club,” where the secret is what “R.U.” means and what they do in the club. They could not be more unlike one another and yet each deeply understands what it is like to live in a new family because of death or divorce: They feel like leftovers, “even though we are right under their noses.” Each one takes a turn to describe her concern or worry. Anonymously, in written suggestions and then in group brainstorming sessions, they discuss solutions. Then as the girls put their trust in collective wisdom and thoughtfully apply effort and action through careful heartfelt adherence to club rules, camaraderie develops. Mounting interest in the characters and their adjustments to family life builds to a too-sweet conclusion, which could be redressed in a sequel, yet five genuine multifaceted characters together with their families make a large cast of characters. which Deriso handles adeptly. An interesting group that begs for a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73334-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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