A tender and affecting coming-of age story. (Fiction. 10-14)

READ REVIEW

THE THINGS OWEN WROTE

Owen’s loving relationship with his grandfather Neville is moving in an unexpected and unwelcome direction.

Neville has decided that he should send back to Iceland the medal that his now-deceased friend received for his sensitive translation of the works of Icelandic-Canadian farmer/poet Stephan G. Stephansson. He makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to travel—immediately—to Iceland, and Owen willingly comes along. The trouble is that Neville is becoming increasingly confused (to the extent that readers may find it surprising that Owen’s parents left the eighth-grader in his care). Owen has a good reason to accompany Neville on the trip: his grandfather accidentally sent Owen’s notebook there, and its contents are something the white boy doesn’t ever want anyone to see. The reason for his need for secrecy isn’t finally revealed until the conclusion of this gentle novel of love, loss, and self-fulfillment, all intertwining in Owen’s life. Owen initially rationalizes both Neville’s frequent missteps and his own character flaw, but it all finally becomes impossible to ignore. The present-tense, third-person narrative primarily focuses on Owen’s point of view, permitting a believable and nuanced exploration of his emerging self-awareness. Owen, Neville, and Owen’s dead but much-missed grandmother Aileen are fully realized characters. Even the (real) poet Stephansson emerges from the pages of this quiet tale.

A tender and affecting coming-of age story. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77306-029-3

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more