Cleanly written and nicely detailed Christmas story, not wholesale sentimentality, by true-crime writer Bledsoe (Before He Wakes, 1994, etc.). Back in the '50s in Thomasville, North Carolina, ``Whitey'' Black and the narrator (nameless), both newsboys and fourth- graders, become friends when they go halves on a paper route. Neither boy is well off. Whitey lives on welfare with his cigarette-smoking mother and polio-crippled four-year-old sister, Sandy. One Thanksgiving a charity group gives the Blacks a bag of groceries, shaming Whitey before his friend. As time passes, though, Whitey at last allows the narrator into his house, where he meets Sandy. Sandy's one source of solace seems to come from the story The Littlest Angel, which Whitey repeatedly reads to her. Come Christmas, Whitey decides to buy his sister a much longed for angel doll. But no such item is in the stores. When the two lads see a big doll that someone might be able to dress as an angel, Whitey devotes his savings to buying the nine-dollar toy and hiring a seamstress. But then Sandy is hospitalized and dies before she can receive the angel. Though the narrator never sees Whitey again, he discovers, as an adult, that his old friend has been giving out dolls to a children's hospital every Christmas. Bledsoe says his story was inspired by ``my memory of the first person I'd know to die.'' But the tale, while sometimes affecting, has little impact, perhaps mainly because Sandy lacks weight on the page. There's an idyllic moment when the boys go out with the narrator's father to gather two Christmas trees and mistletoe from the woods, and indeed, this short novel's best quality has less to do with the plot than with descriptions evoking local stores and streets at Christmas. May well move young, unsophisticated readers. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-17104-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Namioka (Den of the White Fox, 1997, etc.) offers readers a glimpse of the ritual of foot-binding, and a surprising heroine whose life is determined by her rejection of that ritual. Ailin is spirited—her family thinks uncontrollable—even at age five, in her family’s compound in China in 1911, she doesn’t want to have her feet bound, especially after Second Sister shows Ailin her own bound feet and tells her how much it hurts. Ailin can see already how bound feet will restrict her movements, and prevent her from running and playing. Her father takes the revolutionary step of permitting her to leave her feet alone, even though the family of Ailin’s betrothed then breaks off the engagement. Ailin goes to the missionary school and learns English; when her father dies and her uncle cuts off funds for tuition, she leaves her family to become a nanny for an American missionary couple’s children. She learns all the daily household chores that were done by servants in her own home, and finds herself, painfully, cut off from her own culture and separate from the Americans. At 16, she decides to go with the missionaries when they return to San Francisco, where she meets and marries another Chinese immigrant who starts his own restaurant. The metaphor of things bound and unbound is a ribbon winding through this vivid narrative; the story moves swiftly, while Ailin is a brave and engaging heroine whose difficult choices reflect her time and her gender. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32666-1

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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