A sharp, satisfying exploration of some of today’s most controversial topics.


Belle’s debut novel is a quirky alternate history from the perspective of a precocious, politically astute—and pregnant—teenager.

At age 14, Sheila Martin becomes pregnant after she is drugged with Rohypnol and raped at a party. Her conservative, Catholic mother forbids her from getting an abortion. But that’s not the entire story. Her mother’s case is helped by the fact that John McCain won the 2008 election and promptly died in office, leaving his running mate Sarah Palin to become the first woman president of the United States. And although history has been tweaked, Palin’s politics remain as conservative as ever and she helps form a pro-life Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade is overturned, causing anti-abortion trigger laws in several states, including Sheila’s, to go into effect. She endures her pregnancy in one of very few alternatives open to her—the House of Mercy, her state’s government-funded residence for girls in Sheila’s situation. There she meets girls even worse off than she, including an 11-year-old impregnated by her own brother. Sheila liberates the preteen and illegally escorts her across state lines to get an abortion, all with the help of Sheila’s narcoleptic boyfriend and feminist grandmother. On occasion Sheila’s precocity leans toward disingenuousness, but these instances are offset by bright, realistic dialogue and writing that is thoughtfully broad in scope. And although Sheila can seem extraordinarily composed, especially for a girl in the throes of adolescent and pregnancy hormones, throughout she remains an appealing heroine. Belle’s historical and political alterations are recent enough to engage even politically indifferent readers, and her divisive topics (free will, reproductive rights, parental control, how political policy affects even the youngest individuals) are addressed with a diversity of viewpoints and should spark intelligent debate.

A sharp, satisfying exploration of some of today’s most controversial topics.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2011

ISBN: 9780615572543

Page Count: -

Publisher: Creative License

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2011

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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