Moon, Texas, in 1968: the year that 11-year-old Jaynell’s widowed Grandpap moves in. Fearing that he is becoming senile, Jaynell is instructed to keep an eye on Grandpap at all times. She does so with pleasure because it represents both a thrilling invitation to spy and an opportunity to be with her beloved grandfather. Before Grandpap dies (midway through the book), he buys a ’62 Cadillac and teaches Jaynell the rudiments of driving. He also gives his own home to the destitute Pickens family whose father, not unlike Grandpap, is overcoming alcoholism. The setup proceeds at a pace as leisurely as Grandpap’s rounds in his Cadillac, meandering gently through issues of gender, class, alcoholism, and family secrets. Subtle narrative tension threads through the story’s second half as Jaynell’s family argues over Grandpap’s “estate.” Jaynell, the only one who knows that Grandpap intended the Pickens family to have his home, resents the loss of the “homeplace.” Bitterness prevents Jaynell from revealing Grandpap’s intentions when the relatives talk about evicting the Pickenses; a tragedy forces her to reveal the truth. This is bustlingly peopled with colorful, often funny characters. Not all are as interestingly complex as Jaynell’s quiet mother who is coping with her husband’s ’60s-era paternalism and her family’s greed in a tentative but definite way. As always, the author has a reliable grasp on time and place. If the thematic connections are sometimes tenuous, to Holt’s credit the few highly dramatic incidents are not used to manipulate either plot or readers. While this is inherently nostalgic and tenderhearted, it never becomes maudlin and it will be welcomed by fans of Holt’s 1999 National Book Award–winning When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23402-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...


The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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