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

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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Thoughtful and entertaining.

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BETTER TOGETHER

Estranged sisters plan a scheme à la The Parent Trap but are met with an unexpected twist.

Eighteen-year-old Siri Maza from New Jersey is mired in anger and uncertainty after an injury cuts short her burgeoning ballet career. At her mother’s insistence, she agrees to attend a wellness retreat in Colorado—and crashes into a barely remembered long-lost sister she’s been told was an imaginary friend. After bombing spectacularly onstage, 20-year-old Los Angeles comedian Jamie Federov is happy to escape to the Rediscover Yourself retreat, even if it is one of several conditions set by her father upon her moving back home. Jamie’s shocked when she encounters the younger sister she hasn’t seen since their parents split up 14 years ago. Spotting an opportunity for comedic inspiration, Jamie hatches a plot for the two to temporarily swap places and confront their parents. Only when they’re on their respective flights home do they realize that they’ve been transformed to look like one another. The relative ease with which various characters accept the magical element strains belief, but the sisters’ growth over the course of the story is convincing and satisfying. With help from their love interests, Pakistani Zarar and Filipina Dawn—both of whom are well developed and endearing—Jamie and Siri, who are White, confront their individual flaws and strengths and learn to accept the work inherent to healthy familial relationships.

Thoughtful and entertaining. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76006-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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