THE ANGEL DOLL

A CHRISTMAS STORY

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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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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ASPHALT ANGELS

The riveting true story of a 13-year-old boy living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, as do thousands of children, without shelter or hope. Holtwijk submerses readers into Alex’s reality, his diminishing dreams, and his fears. His stepfather drives him from his home when his mother dies; on the streets he meets a few kind people, but ends up living with a gang whose members survive by theft and find solace sniffing glue. Alex knows the dangers of glue and wants to remain honest, hoping only for “a bed and a mother,” but his terror increases daily as he learns to steal. He reluctantly makes one drug run, and uses his pay to buy a real dinner and one night in a hotel. He’s eventually rescued, but many others are not. Holtwijk constructs Alex’s world, conjures the terrors of his nights, makes specific his stolen and begged food, his filthy clothes and matted hair, and his attempts to cling to innocence. Readers will inhabit Alex’s life, for a time, and they will understand and admire him, deeply. (Nonfiction. 14+)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-886910-24-3

Page Count: 183

Publisher: Lemniscaat/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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