The author bases this latest on a premise so unlikely it is almost laughable, yet the characters involved are worth caring about. When Feena was four, her beloved baby brother Christopher died of SIDS. Now ten years later, Feena’s father is gone and her mother has moved the two of them to Florida for a fresh start. Things are pretty bleak: a hot, cramped house wedged between the highway and a rundown kiddie amusement park. There, Feena sees a mother hitting and insulting her toddler on several occasions. While the abuse is not horrific by current standards, the coldness and cruelty of this mother are clear. Feena is struck not only by the awful treatment of the toddler, but also by his name: Christopher, the same as her dead brother. The last straw comes when Feena witnesses the mother leaving Christopher in the parking lot and driving away. She rescues (kidnaps?) Christy and decides to hide him. Very soon it becomes clear that Feena is in over her head. She has no money, no place to hide him, and she’s supposed to be in school. Added to the dubious nature of the plot, the most popular girl in school finds out about him and is immediately drawn to saving him, too. The girls succeed for a few weeks but the situation becomes too much for them, and Feena returns the little boy to his mother in spite of what they know. Feena plans to keep in touch with the mother in an effort to prevent future abuse, but when she returns for her first visit, Christy and his family are gone. The girls struggle with many issues around Christy’s kidnapping and disappearance. They wonder if they are justified in breaking the law to save a child, and why the law hasn’t protected him before. They wonder what kind of life he will have and where his mother has taken him. Both girls are complex characters, well drawn and sympathetic. What this lacks in realism, it makes up for in character development and “issue raising” and would be great for classroom discussion in a junior-high language arts class. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-1371-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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Dare-devil mountain-climber Peak Marcello (14), decides to scale the Woolworth Building and lands in jail. To save him, his long-lost Everest-trekking dad appears with a plan for the duo to make a life in Katmandu—a smokescreen to make Peak become the youngest person in history to summit Mount Everest. Peak must learn to navigate the extreme and exotic terrain but negotiate a code of ethics among men. This and other elements such as the return of the long-lost father, bite-size chunks of information about climbing and altitude, an all-male cast, competition and suspense (can Peak be the youngest ever to summit Everest, and can he beat out a 14-year-old Nepalese boy who accompanies him?) creates the tough stuff of a “boys read.” The narrative offers enough of a bumpy ride to satisfy thrill seekers, while Peak’s softer reflective quality lends depth and some—but not too much—emotional resonance. Teachers will want to pair this with Mark Pfetzer’s Within Reach: My Everest Story (1998). (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-202417-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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