THE BROKEN BOY

When the Ferrises move in next door, where Solly Freedom's aged friend Mrs. Sawyer used to live, Solly's family takes their oddities in stride; after all, Solly's parents came of age in the 60's and have their own idiosyncracies. They are taken aback, however, when Daniel, apparently seeking refuge from his parents' shouting matches, becomes a frequent, silent presence in their home; but Solly and Daniel are soon friends; and when it develops that Daniel is mentally ill, the Freedoms are warmly supportive. Meanwhile, Daniel discovers the diary of Mrs. Sawyer's disabled son Martin, and concludes from Martin's soul-searching about his own condition and his war-traumatized father's death that there may be more for him in his next life. There are more than enough parallels and images here: every male is in some sense a ``broken boy,'' while several people are summed up as ``buffalo dimes'' or as ``annuals'' or ``perennials.'' Ackerman makes her point—life involves many repairs and much forgiveness—but then belabors it explicitly. And there are odd glitches: Why does the healthy, intelligent, albeit wheelchair-bound, Martin live in a ``hospice,'' apparently unemployed? How did his infirm mother manage alone for five years after he moved out? Still, the dialogue is witty and offbeat, the situation engrossing, the characters perceptively drawn, and the outcome moving and credible—though Daniel may not recover from his suicide attempt, others are seeking new reconciliations as a result of it. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-399-22254-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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