Established as a skillful writer of deceptively simple picture books about childhood curiosity and playfulness, Banks’s first novel is intriguingly complex, enigmatic, and brilliant. From the mystique of the title, which is the main character’s name, to the opening sentence, “Each of us has a story and it starts with a name,” the reader is drawn into an eddy that swirls with the question, why would anybody stigmatize a child with the same first and last name? Dillon could never get past his name—until the family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Waban when he turns 10. His family gives him a red rowboat with his name on it—spurring him to ask “that” question out loud. The long overdue answer is that his parents are really his aunt and uncle who adopted him when his real parents were killed. The boat gives him freedom to discover himself, rowing to a nearby island where he bonds with a pair of loons who bring Dillon face-to-face with the magic and wonder of life. When they persist in building a nest in his sneaker and lay an egg in it, Dillon feels himself becoming like them. “The loon’s voice traveled into Dillon’s bones, to the depths of his soul.” He asks himself over and over again if it’s possible for a boy to become a bird. Carefully thatched strands weave throughout Dillon’s inner dialogue: his birthday boomerang that always returns, which his father says is its destiny; shoes—his as the nest and trying on his family’s shoes; the parallel of the loon parents being shot and killed over water as Dillon’s parents were killed in a plane accident over water; and the belief in the magical powers of loons to take us back to who we are. The flow of language is as smooth as calm water, the imagery graceful. As meticulous as loons preening their fathers, Banks has crafted a poignant quest for understanding by an unforgettable character whose name shaped his destiny, one that will reverberate in readers’ minds like a loon’s trill. Extraordinary. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-31786-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002



From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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