Needs judicious editing and a more interesting visual style to realize its full child-pleasing potential.

The Adventures of Fred the Fly

A hungry fly avoids a swatting but then finds himself in need of rescue when he ends up on a garden spider’s menu in this picture book by debut author Carr and illustrator Jakosalem (Nicky’s Story, 2016, etc.)

A foraging fly named Fred has quite an adventure in this simple picture book for young readers. Nearly flattened by a homemaker with a rolled up newspaper, Fred falls into a garbage pail (“potato peelings and bits of carrots, mushrooms and egg shells”), lands on a compost heap, finds a hungry spider on his trail, and escapes with help from his best snail and slug buddies. Fueled by a gentle spirit, the plot has undoubted kid appeal with its sympathetic, garbage-loving hero—and the author’s rather ingenious (if slimy) fix for Fred’s broken wing. The book’s uneven execution is another matter, however. The author undermines his eventful storytelling with awkward or repetitious wording and run-on and incomplete sentences: “Looking around Fred could see lots of nice food lying on the shelves he could also see a glass jug”; “Fred was beginning to feel drowsy it was a very comfortable place to rest he had all the food he wanted.” This perplexing lack of attention to sentence structure is especially disappointing because the author has clearly put thought into envisioning a fly’s-eye world of tempting rubbishy bits, warm compost, slug slime, hairy spider legs, and sunshine. Fred is a distinct character whose food has to be “nice and soft because he had no teeth,” whose mother worries about him, and who can rely on good friends. While colorful and sweet, Jakosalem’s somewhat mundane, cartoonlike illustrations, boxed in wide-margined squares over blocks of text, would benefit from a more fluid approach.

Needs judicious editing and a more interesting visual style to realize its full child-pleasing potential.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5144-6225-6

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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