An understated, grounded account of getting older.

THE TIME BOX

Capetanos’ debut middle-grade novel describes a year in the life of a 12-year-old boy as he grapples with the big questions of life.

Thomas “Tommy” Adkins Johnson is an ordinary preteen growing up in central North Carolina: “Almost everything about me seems average,” he narrates. His best friend is Kareem Brooks, but the two have drifted apart since Kareem has become more serious about playing basketball. Tommy also has a good friend, Mignon Eubanks, who’s not quite a girlfriend—at least not yet. At the beginning of his seventh-grade school year, his class takes a field trip to a planetarium, and learning about the vastness of space changes his outlook on life. He puzzles over tough questions, such as whether humans are alone in the universe. Did someone make us, he wonders, or are we just an accident? When Tommy’s uncle, Aaron, is killed in a motorcycle accident, he starts pondering death by reading obituaries and visiting graveyards. He decides that he wants to leave something behind when he passes away, so that people will know who he was. Mignon comes up with the idea of making a time capsule, which Tommy calls the “Time Box.” The process of constructing the box, deciding what to put in it, and figuring out where to bury it shapes the rest of his year. Capetanos depicts Tommy often contemplating the mysteries of girls and sex in this novel, sometimes crudely, as many adolescent boys do. However, the author also portrays his protagonist’s budding relationship with Mignon in a way that conveys mutual respect and genuine feeling, as she teaches him how to slow-dance and gives him his “first real genuine kiss.” Tommy tells his story as if talking to someone who’s unfamiliar with his 21st-century suburban world—a future archaeologist unearthing a time capsule, perhaps. Sometimes he comes across as too insightful for his age, but more often his 12-year-old voice sounds genuine. Due to some strong language, this realistic coming-of-age story will appeal to more mature preteen readers as well as adults who may be feeling nostalgic for their childhoods.

An understated, grounded account of getting older.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9911211-8-2

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Owl Canyon Press

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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 short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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