THE EXCHANGE STUDENT

Budding zoologist Daria lives in 2094, 70 years after an environmental crash; the near-extinction of many species of animals puts her in the enviable position of helping replenish Earth by raising creatures in a home zoo. Her family is cooperative (if not always agreeable) and financially able to help her feed and house llamas, hornbills, and binturongs. When her mother announces that Fen, an exchange student from the planet Chela, will be staying with them, Daria wonders if the tall grey alien will fit in. Fen, however, loves animals to an extraordinary degree, and Daria gains a companion and a sympathetic helper, who is oddly taciturn on the subject of Chelan fauna. Gilmore (Jason and the Bard, 1993) charts this story carefully, crafting the awkward nuances that give rise to cultural—or in this case, interplanetary—misunderstandings. Fen is a convincing alien; he’s humanoid, but markedly different from Daria, and his propensity for changing color with his emotions leads to an intriguing scene in which he tries to communicate with a chameleon. Underlying the growing friendship and understanding between Earthlings and Chelans is the slowly revealed horror of what has happened on Chela—an environmental disaster as devastating as a nuclear blast. Gilmore shows that Earth might end, not with a bang, but without a bleat, meow, bark, or chirp. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-57511-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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TIES THAT BIND, TIES THAT BREAK

Namioka (Den of the White Fox, 1997, etc.) offers readers a glimpse of the ritual of foot-binding, and a surprising heroine whose life is determined by her rejection of that ritual. Ailin is spirited—her family thinks uncontrollable—even at age five, in her family’s compound in China in 1911, she doesn’t want to have her feet bound, especially after Second Sister shows Ailin her own bound feet and tells her how much it hurts. Ailin can see already how bound feet will restrict her movements, and prevent her from running and playing. Her father takes the revolutionary step of permitting her to leave her feet alone, even though the family of Ailin’s betrothed then breaks off the engagement. Ailin goes to the missionary school and learns English; when her father dies and her uncle cuts off funds for tuition, she leaves her family to become a nanny for an American missionary couple’s children. She learns all the daily household chores that were done by servants in her own home, and finds herself, painfully, cut off from her own culture and separate from the Americans. At 16, she decides to go with the missionaries when they return to San Francisco, where she meets and marries another Chinese immigrant who starts his own restaurant. The metaphor of things bound and unbound is a ribbon winding through this vivid narrative; the story moves swiftly, while Ailin is a brave and engaging heroine whose difficult choices reflect her time and her gender. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32666-1

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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