DEAR MRS. RYAN, YOU'RE RUINING MY LIFE

All’s fair in love and war as a young boy conspires to set his mom up with his school principal in this engaging debut from Jones. It’s all out war as far as fifth grader Harvey Ryan is concerned when it comes to stopping his mom from using him as inspiration for her popular children’s stories. Desperate to convince her that art shouldn’t imitate life, at least not his life, Harvey reluctantly agrees to go along with his best friend’s plan to create a diversion (in the guise of a boyfriend) from writing for his mom. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” never seems truer than when Harvey finds his mother’s love life the focus of schoolyard speculation. Newcomer Jones does a neat job tapping into a fifth grader’s mind. Harvey is a typical school age boy: an avid baseball fan and stamp collector, living for recess and summer baseball league. His wry observations on parents and life in general will keep audiences laughing. On the whole, Jones’s characters are well developed; the best friend, Seal, is spunky and smart while the main adults are realistically portrayed. A few secondary characters remain flat, e.g., the oblique references to Seal’s new stepfather (who is always around the house) are rather baffling, and some of the platitudes Harvey spouts end up sounding pedantic and too adult. Despite these few hiccups, the narrative, with a likable protagonist, liberal doses of baseball fever and humor, is strong and appealing to readers both male and female. They’ll be rooting for Henry as he deals with the unexpected curve balls life throws him. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8027-8728-2

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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