THE GREAT BRAIN

According to J.D., Tom the Great Brain's younger brother, Adenville, Utah in 1896, is full of opportunities for an enterprising boy—Papa installs the first water closet in town (and Tom charges to see the cess pool dug, the chain pulled); J.D. catches the mumps first on purpose, has a chance to gloat over his still-swollen brothers (but Tom exacts a price for calling off his punishment); a Greek immigrant boy is badgered and bullied (and Tom earns a dollar for training him to outfight his chief tormentor); the new teacher turns out to be a tyrant (but Tom first has him fired, then rehired chastened). The Great Brain reigns but he's not the whole story—there's Abie Glassman who dies of malnutrition, of Jewish pride and Christian neglect. Neither is Tom all tricks: in a gem of a story that could stand alone he undertakes the reeducation of Peg Leg Andy who's about to tighten the noose around his neck because he thinks he's no use to his father or himself—and then refuses the promised reward. Like another Tom, the Great Brain steps out of a particular place and time and keeps coming... A funny, fast-moving, endearing book that adults will appreciate and boys will lap up.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1967

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2590-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1967

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The tweaks deliver no real alterations, but the clothing and hairstyles may amuse.

DAVID ROBERTS' DELIGHTFULLY DIFFERENT FAIRY TALES

Three classic fairy tales given 20th- (and 30th-) century settings.

Originally published separately between 2001 and 2016, the stories are massaged in ways that tone down the violence of pre-Disney versions and show off the illustrator’s chops as a caricaturist. In “Cinderella” (2001), the scenes are filled with flamboyant art deco fashions and details; the fairy godmother creates a snazzy limo to take young Greta to the ball; and rosebud-lipped, pointy-nosed evil stepsisters Ermintrude and Elvira survive unmutilated. Similarly, in “Rapunzel” (2003), the title character escapes her mid-1970s flat to run off with (unblinded) pop musician Roger, and in “Sleeping Beauty” (2016), when 16-year-old science-fiction fan Annabel pricks her finger on the needle of a record player, she falls asleep for 1,000 years. The three female leads project airs of independence but really have no more agency here than in the originals. The all-White casts and conventional relationships of the first two stories do loosen a bit in “Sleeping Beauty,” as Annabel, who seems White, is watched over by an interracial pair of motherly aunts and awakened at long last (albeit with a touch, not a kiss) by Zoe, who has light-brown skin and long, black hair. Notes following each tale draw attention to the period details, and even the futuristic city at the end has a retro look. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70 % of actual size.)

The tweaks deliver no real alterations, but the clothing and hairstyles may amuse. (Fairy tales. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84365-475-9

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Pavilion Children's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.

PROMISE THE NIGHT

MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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