THE ZEBRA WALL by Kevin Henkes


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The author of several picture books and novels, including Two Under Par (1987), tells how Adine Verlob, ten and the oldest of five sisters, adapts to two new arrivals to the household: a baby brother and her mother's older sister. Everyone is delighted with the baby, even though his room must be repainted: the family has been expecting another girl. Adine is less happy about Aunt Irene: 50-ish, newly divorced, and with a propensity for uncomfortable observations and smelly brown cigarettes (Henkes suffuses the book with cigarette smoke, for reasons that are never made clear), as well as a mania for cats. When it seems that she's going to share Adine's room indefinitely, Adine vows to do anything to get rid of her, until an overheard telephone conversation gives her a new understanding of Irene's vulnerability. Although the plot is fresh and has some resonant, truthful moments, this is unevenly written. The Midwestern working-class setting is authentic, but not very sympathetic. There are well-realized characters, especially Adine's parents and Aunt Irene, but others (including Adine's sisters) hardly emerge from the background. A mixed effort.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1988
ISBN: 0060733039
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Greenwillow