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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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.


A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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