Ambitious, but seriously lacking polish—and also a reason to read any sequels.

READ REVIEW

WHY BEGINS WITH W

A LESSON IN MURDER

A light scattering of digital inserts doesn’t raise the grade of this mannered tale of high school murder, published on paper in 2009.

Framed as transcribed entries from a found journal, the open-ended tale begins with the discovery of a (supposed) murder-suicide and ends with the further death of a (purported) witness. In between, the unnamed narrator intersperses the account of the investigations with low opinions of fellow students, teachers, school lunch, Hemingway and like adolescent targets. A clutch of ambiguous incidents, inscrutable clues and unreliable-sounding witnesses all remain so at the end and shed no more light on what’s going on than do the bombastic side comments (“Intelligence is gender neutral, but stupidity is a bitch”) that appear when the antique woodcut vignettes scattered throughout are clicked. Nor are readers likely to be engaged by the narrator’s teasing refusals to reveal his or her gender (a reference to a boys’ gym class is probably an authorial mistake rather than a deliberate clue). A jumbled Blair Witch Project–style video trailer is tacked to the front end.

Ambitious, but seriously lacking polish—and also a reason to read any sequels. (Enhanced e-book mystery. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 8, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: PANGEA

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

Swift's account of Gulliver's captivity in Lilliput and Brobdingnag is considerably shortened and rephrased here, but Riordan expertly preserves the flavor of the original: upon reaching the temple where he is to stay, the intrepid traveler shamefacedly relieves himself before the tiny multitudes (though the more famous scene where he similarly puts out a palace fire is absent); later, he survives plenty of harrowing adventures, admiringly describing the societies in which he's stranded while taking subtle pokes (and not-so-subtle—``Englishmen are the nastiest race of odious little vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth,'' says the king of Brobdingnag) at his own, and at fashion and politics in general. Large or small, Gulliver cuts a heroic figure in Ambrus's pervasive, free-wheeling illustrations; other characters have exaggerated features and a comic air that lighten the satire and serves the narrative well. Swift's ax-grinding can be indigestible in large doses; like other abridged classics from this publisher and illustrator, a palatable, well-blended appetizer. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-279897-9

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1992

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