A well-observed camp tale with an appealing young girl’s voice that falls short in its depiction of Native Americans.

CRAZY MOON

A preteen finds fun, friendship, and adventure at a summer camp in this children’s novel.

Madison Grey is a tad anxious about going to Crazy Moon sleep-away camp. This will be her first time away from home without her parents and three younger siblings. In this light, engaging first-person narrative for ages 7 and up, Greene (A Tunnel in the Pines, 2015) gives Madison an authentic, likable voice as she reacts alternately with nervousness, humor, curiosity, and thoughtfulness to her camp experiences. She falls in love with a horse named Mouse, plays water games, dabbles in crafts, toasts marshmallows, steals the spotlight in a talent show (due to a funny costume mishap), attends her first boy-girl dance, and makes new friends. Madison is described as white and “skinny.” One character is “a little heavy”; another is “small.” Some have brown skin, suggesting diversity (on one girl, “everything” is “brown, her skin, her long, dark hair, and long-lashed eyes”). This is reflected in one of the pleasant, full-page digital images by debut illustrator Sands. The author gives the girls distinctive personalities without stereotyping. Snobby Julie shows she has a conscience. A certain event makes Madison see clingy, overweight Nancy through new eyes. By the end of her stay, Madison feels a budding sense of independence. Mild scares include a tornado warning, a swarm of bees, and a food fight with briefly worrisome consequences. Greene brings summer camp to life from the affectionate perspective of someone who has been there, adding color and depth with small details. A hawk makes “slow, graceful circles” searching for prey; wood “hissed and popped” on the campfire, shooting “orange sparks high into the darkening sky.” Yet the book’s relatability for a diverse pool of readers is compromised by references painting Native Americans as a past, exotic “other.” When Madison grumbles about brushing her teeth during a camping trip, earnest Helen says that “American Indians” used pine to clean their teeth. They laugh when Julie jokes, “That’s because they all had buffalo breath.” While the author points out the girls’ ignorance through a campfire talk about the area’s history and “the Indians” who were “amazingly resourceful,” the portrait is still problematic.

A well-observed camp tale with an appealing young girl’s voice that falls short in its depiction of Native Americans.

Pub Date: June 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943424-35-1

Page Count: 118

Publisher: North Country Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2019

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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