THE RUNAWAYS

A 12-year-old takes a short flyer from home and finds a double cause in this earnest debut. Nick hasn’t adjusted to his mother’s new marriage; when she announces that she’s pregnant, it’s the last straw. He runs away, taking refuge in an abandoned mansion where he meets Luther, a fixture on the streets of Nick’s town who eats from garbage cans but talks like a college graduate. After an uncomfortable night, Nick turns himself in, and, dramatic gesture behind him, realizes that it’s not so bad to have a home and two caring adults. He starts to visit Luther on the sly, and also begins work on a school report about the town’s poor and homeless that takes him through a run-down neighborhood and into a soup kitchen for a talk with a real runaway. Butcher has an obvious cautionary message to impart, but allows readers to observe and draw their own conclusions from events, and Nick is more than a mouthpiece. In a shrink-wrapped ending, Nick learns that Luther is a well-known author of children’s books, driven into the streets by personal tragedy. Nick’s friendship and his report, published in the local newspaper, persuade Luther to start writing again. It’s a tidy but convincing view of the sparking of a young person’s social conscience. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55074-413-5

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

HOW TO STEAL A DOG

Georgina and younger brother Toby begin a homeless life living in Mom’s car, having been evicted when Dad leaves. Mom tries her best to work two minimum-wage jobs in order to make the security deposit for a new apartment while the kids struggle daily to maintain normalcy in and out of school. Desperate to help Mom gain some significant cash, Georgina concocts a grand scheme to steal a dog, dupe the owner into offering a $500 reward and then return the designated pooch for the cash. As crazy as this sounds, O’Connor weaves a suspenseful and achingly realistic story, fleshing out characters that live and breathe anxiety, fortitude and a right vs. wrong consciousness. Colorful, supporting roles of a wise, kind vagrant and a lonely, overweight dog owner round out this story of childhood helplessness, ingenuity and desolation. Georgina’s reflections in a secretly kept “how-to” journal will have kids anticipating her misconceptions about the realities of theft and deception. A powerful portrayal from an innocently youthful perspective. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-33497-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more