The setting comes alive in this easy chapter book, even if the characters don’t.

READ REVIEW

Rollie-Rollie. Scary Grand Entry.

YOUNG TEENS

A young Caribbean boy meets a fantastical friend in this early reader.

Karl has big dreams: He wants to beat the island’s best runner in the 200-meter sprint and then go on to run in the Olympics. He even feels his feet cross the finish line—but, alas, he wakes up and realizes it was just a dream. Karl has a mysterious friend, however, a rolling calf named Rollie-Rollie, who appears in a terrifying “grand entrance” with the sounds of clanking iron chains—a “mad beast sprint[ing] toward Karl with fire blazing from its mouth.” In his Caribbean patois, Rollie-Rollie promises to train Karl for the Olympics: “Boy, if yuh let me be yuh coach, we could win any race on earth.” Rollie-Rollie also makes, and keeps, another promise to Karl: He will appear to his family and friends in the town square so they don’t think Karl is crazy. Along with Karl and Rollie, there are about a dozen characters in this 34-page book, most of whom are nothing but names. Some of them participate in brief vignettes that lack context: Ben takes Leonard on a walk to find mangoes; Junior strikes up a romance with a girl named Mona, etc. Readers learn nothing more and can only guess that their personalities and circumstances will be introduced in other books in the series. Yet Brown and Brown (A Turbulent Road to Heaven, 2013, etc.) pack the story with details evocative of island life: the town turning out for a footrace; eating callaloo, ackee and salt fish for breakfast; a trip to the well to fill up water drums; washing clothes by the river—even the rolling calf himself is a common spirit in island folklore, though usually not a friendly one. The book ends with a parable told by Essie, the children’s mother figure, and a moral—one will never regret a job well done—that is as disconnected as the other parts of the story.

The setting comes alive in this easy chapter book, even if the characters don’t.

Pub Date: March 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482731507

Page Count: 40

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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