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JULIA AND THE ART OF PRACTICAL TRAVEL

Readers who make it to the heartland with her will find the pleasure in Julia’s travels.

In 1968, after Julia’s aunt Constance is forced to sell Windy Ridge, home to the aristocratic Lancasters since the American Revolution, to Tipsy von Lipp (nee Shirley Hicks), the two set off to find Julia’s mother, Rosemary, who traded pearls for love beads three years earlier.

Julia brings her Brownie camera, and with Lancaster heirlooms—oriental carpets, silver tea service—in steamer trunks, one even lashed to the roof of the station wagon, they drive to Manhattan to stay with Tipsy at her invitation while Aunt Constance combs Greenwich Village searching for Rosemary. Stuck in the suffocating apartment with gloating, vulgar Tipsy, Julia’s inspired to play an elaborate practical joke that quickly ends their visit. The droll, meandering road trip across the United States unfolds in spare but telling detail that draws on Blume’s poignant imagery. But the inconsistent tone—early, broad farce gives way to pointed pathos—and jerky, episodic plot can jar. There’s little sense of the vivid 1960s in the text or Julia’s generic photos. Ridiculing silly Tipsy, a shrill hayseed who’s never seen an oyster fork (how many young readers have?), makes Julia seem heartless—a preteen Eloise. The urban snobbery has a chilling effect. The liveliest, most evocative scenes are those far from civilization and its discontents; it’s in the lonely, arid Texas and Nevada landscapes that the characters come close.

Readers who make it to the heartland with her will find the pleasure in Julia’s travels. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75282-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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