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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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