An informative environmental tale with a few rough spots.

A FISH CALLED BAD EYES

In this chapter book, a myopic fish gets a pair of glasses, which allows him to become an ambassador on behalf of his species and his reef.

Bad Eyes, a fish with poor eyesight, swims with his school of Manini (also known as surgeonfish) around their home reef in Hawaii. Having bad eyesight is dangerous in this environment because of the many predators that catch and eat Manini. Swimming nearer the surface one day, Bad Eyes encounters humans: a girl, Marsha, exploring the reef with her marine biologist father in a boat. When her glasses fall off, they somehow attach themselves to Bad Eyes. To his amazement, he can now see clearly. Marsha dives in with her snorkeling gear and, miraculously, can talk telepathically to Bad Eyes. She wants to be friends and gives the glasses to him as a gift. Bad Eyes With Glasses—his new name—becomes a protector for his school, negotiating with barracudas, sharks, octopuses, groupers, and other animals; he learns much more about them and passes on important information, such as how to escape a gill net. The assorted reef populations vow to cooperate and protect themselves. Meanwhile, Marsha and her father work to halt human activities like the nets that badly damage fish and reefs. The volume leaves off hinting at more escapades to come. In his children’s book, Golicz (BE ALONE WITH ME, 2016) effectively combines adventure with ecological facts about ocean dwellers. Morey the Eel, for example, explains to Bad Eyes that he lives “by eating you and any fool, weak, or dead fish, snail, crab, lobster, or cucumber” that drifts by. The character of Marsha allows kids to identify with the story—which is never preachy—and think about what they could do to help preserve ocean reefs and wildlife. But dialogue can be stiff (for example, “Marsha, I’m not sure about your feelings, but you are without any danger from a schooling reef fish”), and Bad Eyes’ various encounters are very similar. While the uncredited black-and-white illustrations give the fish expressive faces, they clumsily combine photographs and drawings.

An informative environmental tale with a few rough spots.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4834-7886-9

Page Count: 82

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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