PICTURES, 1918

An innovative novel from Ingold (The Window, 1996, etc.), in some ways reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan’s Journey (1991), where photography serves as the metaphor for a clarifying of many kinds of vision. In 1918 in Dust Crossing, Texas, Asia is a high-school junior. As the story opens someone has set fire to her family’s chicken house and Asia has lost a pet jackrabbit in the blaze. The experience starts her thinking about loss and change, and the precarious balance of life. With WWI raging, there’s plenty to think about; boys Asia’s age, 17, are going off to fight. There are changes at home, too: Asia’s grandmother, a strong woman who has always been a bulwark, is having memory problems and lapses of strange behavior. Romance begins to blossom between Asia and Nick, a boy who’s always been her best friend; Nick’s cousin, Boy Blackwell, who is rabidly anti-German, likes Asia, too, and she finds herself in the middle of an uncomfortable rivalry. At first Asia wants to take pictures to capture and preserve the present. But as she becomes more involved with the photographic process (buying a camera and apprenticing at a local studio), she acquires a different view of the world. Ingold makes vivid the last days of WWI, March to November, relayed in a first-person present tense that gives Asia’s growing-up a very contemporary texture. This perceptive novel has believable characters and complex, evolving relationships. The element of mystery about the fire, gratifyingly played out, leads to a satisfying, fully-rounded conclusion. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201809-3

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

SEVENTH GRADE TANGO

PLB 0-7868-2427-1 The content and concerns of Levy’s latest is at odds with the young reading level and large type size, which may prevent this novel’s natural audience of middle schoolers from finding a fast and funny read. In sixth grade, Rebecca broke her friend Scott’s toe at a dance. Now, in seventh grade, they are partners in a ballroom dance class, and they soon find they dance well together, but that makes Rebecca’s friend Samantha jealous. She gives a party during which spin-the-bottle is played, kissing Scott and then bullying him into being her boyfriend. While Rebecca deals with her mixed feelings about all this, she also has a crush on her dance instructor. Levy (My Life as a Fifth-Grade Comedian, 1997, etc.) has great comedic timing and writes with a depth of feeling to make early adolescent romantic travails engaging; she also comes through on the equally difficult feat of making ballroom dancing appealing to young teens. The obsession with kissing, pre-sexual tension, and sensuality of the dancing will be off-putting or engrossing, depending entirely on readers’ comfort levels with such conversations in real life as well as on the page. Precocious preteens will find that this humorously empathetic take on budding romance is just right. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0498-X

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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