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CRAZY MOON

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

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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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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