Though engaging, this app calls more attention to the medium than the message behind this wonderfully disturbing tale.

CHOPSTICKS

Multimedia collage tells the tale of a child prodigy’s struggle with madness in this app version of the novel for teens.

On paper, Anthony and Corral pushed narrative’s edge in this unsettling tale of star-crossed love and burgeoning talent. The app does as well. Using snapshots, newspaper clippings, postcards, concert programs, text-messaging conversations and illustrations, Anthony and Corral present a scrapbook-style biography of Gloria “Glory” Fleming’s extraordinary life from before birth to her disappearance at age 17. Glory’s prodigal talent as a pianist gains her world renown, and her love for Frank Mendoza, the boy next door, appears to be able to surmount all obstacles. But when Glory starts introducing the basic Chopsticks theme in performance and then finds she can’t stop, the shadow of madness casts a pall over the story, leading readers to wonder whether Frank even exists. This app’s interactive features underscore Glory’s instability. With the ability to zoom in, for example, readers can play detective and scrutinize key objects in the story, such as a wine bottle's label, that contradict her account. The ability to move photos on the page suggests their transience, and touch-screen English translations of Spanish passages make the spare text even more accessible. It's a pity that the app does not make fuller use of an audio recording of Chopsticks; instead, it relies on Internet access to view embedded links to YouTube clips (which don’t add appreciably to the work), making it less portable than the print version.

Though engaging, this app calls more attention to the medium than the message behind this wonderfully disturbing tale. (iPad book app. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR

Troubled teen meets totemic catalyst in Mikaelsen’s (Petey, 1998, etc.) earnest tribute to Native American spirituality. Fifteen-year-old Cole is cocky, embittered, and eaten up by anger at his abusive parents. After repeated skirmishes with the law, he finally faces jail time when he viciously beats a classmate. Cole’s parole officer offers him an alternative—Circle Justice, an innovative justice program based on Native traditions. Sentenced to a year on an uninhabited Arctic island under the supervision of Edwin, a Tlingit elder, Cole provokes an attack from a titanic white “Spirit Bear” while attempting escape. Although permanently crippled by the near-death experience, he is somehow allowed yet another stint on the island. Through Edwin’s patient tutoring, Cole gradually masters his rage, but realizes that he needs to help his former victims to complete his own healing. Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk, and if Cole’s turnaround is dramatic, it is also convincingly painful and slow. Alas, the rest of the characters are cardboard caricatures: the brutal, drunk father, the compassionate, perceptive parole officer, and the stoic and cryptic Native mentor. Much of the plot stretches credulity, from Cole’s survival to his repeated chances at rehabilitation to his victim being permitted to share his exile. Nonetheless, teens drawn by the brutality of Cole’s adventures, and piqued by Mikaelsen’s rather muscular mysticism, might absorb valuable lessons on anger management and personal responsibility. As melodramatic and well-meaning as the teens it targets. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97744-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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