Bullying is a hot topic, so this average effort joins an already crowded field.

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THE BLUE VASE

After she accidentally breaks what she believes to be a valuable vase at the home of her babysitter, Sonia, a recent immigrant from Moldova, is blackmailed by the woman’s granddaughter Marta, a classmate.

First Marta demands Sonia’s treasured eraser collection to ensure she’ll keep the secret of the broken vase, but the bully quickly ups the ante, requiring daily payoffs of whatever she can force Sonia to turn over. Sonia, unfortunately, keeps quiet about the situation, believing that otherwise her financially struggling parents will be forced to pay for the vase. Humiliated by the blackmail and other bullying, Sonia avoids school when she can and hides whenever she’s able. Under some eventual prodding from her teacher, she gradually reveals her plight, leading to a too-easy solution. Sonia’s narrative voice rarely rings true, too often sounding oddly authorial. Among illustrator Bisaillon’s frequent, somewhat surreal illustrations is one that is out of sync with the text and, more critically, fails to convey that Marta’s “face looked like a thundercloud.” Still, Sonia’s teacher’s wise, spot-on advice helps make up for the shortcomings of this brief, simplistic novel: “Some kids who are bullied feel so much despair that they want to disappear. They forget about all the people who love them and could help.”

Bullying is a hot topic, so this average effort joins an already crowded field. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-896580-91-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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