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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Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and...

THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR

Dies Drear? Ohio abolitionist, keeper of a key station on the Underground Railroad, bearer of a hypercharged name that is not even noted as odd. Which is odd: everything else has an elaborate explanation.

Unlike Zeely, Miss Hamilton's haunting first, this creates mystery only to reveal sleight-of-hand, creates a character who's larger than life only to reveal his double. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Small is fascinated, and afraid, of the huge, uncharted house his father, a specialist in Negro Civil War history, has purposefully rented. A strange pair of children, tiny Pesty and husky Mac Darrow, seem to tease him; old bearded Pluto, long-time caretaker and local legend, seems bent on scaring the Smalls away. But how can a lame old man run fast enough to catch Thomas from behind? what do the triangles affixed to their doors signify? who spread a sticky paste of foodstuffs over the kitchen? Pluto, accosted, disappears. . . into a cavern that was Dies Drear's treasure house of decorative art, his solace for the sequestered slaves. But Pluto is not, despite his nickname, the devil; neither is he alone; his actor-son has returned to help him stave off the greedy Darrows and the Smalls, if they should also be hostile to the house, the treasure, the tradition. Pluto as keeper of the flame would be more convincing without his, and his son's, histrionics, and without Pesty as a prodigy cherubim. There are some sharp observations of, and on, the Negro church historically and presently, and an aborted ideological debate regarding use of the Negro heritage.

Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and figuratively), the story becomes a charade. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1968

ISBN: 1416914056

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1968

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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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