ONE TRUE FRIEND

A semi-epistolary novel in which two friends help each other through hard times with a long-distance correspondence. Hansen brings back characters introduced in The Gift-Giver (1980) and Yellow Bird and Me (1986) to continue their stories. Amir, 14, an orphan whose family has been broken up, is adjusting to life in Syracuse with new foster parents, the Smiths, who have raised his little brother from the age of two. Meanwhile, Doris, 12, sends him news of his old Bronx neighborhood and writes of her friendship with a girl who she learns has a marijuana habit. The letters back and forth between the two children are buttressed by a more traditional third-person narrative of Amir’s activities in Syracuse, for the story is primarily his. It’s his quest to find his aunt and his other brothers and sisters to reunite his family, and his struggle to overcome the shame that clouds his memory of his parents’ last days. He is a genuinely sympathetic character, his loneliness and reluctance to trust this new set of foster parents being compounded by his little brother’s total attachment to the Smiths and his heartbreaking lack of memory of his birth family. In their correspondence, however, the kids come across as almost impossibly sweet; their letters have a few token grammatical errors but otherwise Amir and Doris express themselves with astonishing fluency and with a sort of forced naïveté that frequently falls flat. Nonetheless, it’s a good-hearted and honest treatment of kids’ feelings as they cope with their own separate challenges. The story can stand on its own; newcomers to the series, though, may want to go back to the earlier books to see how Amir and Doris’s friendship started. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-395-84983-7

Page Count: 151

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.

OUT OF THE DUST

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible—fully responsible in the eyes of the community—and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano.

Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it.

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 978-0-590-36080-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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