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In a story that spans the four seasons of 1821, 12-year-old Nelly and her older brother, Cornelius, see their family devastated by the death of their mother, turned topsy-turvy by the arrival of their young and bookish stepmother, and enlivened by visits from a most peculiar John Chapman, a neighbor fond of planting apple trees. Set on the Indiana frontier, this has all the elements of a Little House wannabe. Here, though, Pa is gruff and non-communicative, disappearing for months and returning only with his pretty new wife Margery. Said wife brings a trunk full of books but can’t cook the simplest foods. Pa and Cornelius spend a good deal of their time hunting and even bring home a catamount baby that Nelly adopts. Pa has killed the mother for her skin and warns Nelly that the adorable creature will grow up to kill. Nelly pays him no mind, to her eventual regret. She even cooks up a rather absurd romance between John Chapman and her stepmother. Needless to say, Nelly grows to appreciate her stepmother’s good points, especially her storytelling and her books. When her baby arrives, it is Nelly who is present and Nelly who promises the dying Margery that she will love and cherish the infant. Cullen works hard to make Nelly an appealing heroine and develops the conflict in Nelly between love for her dead mother and growing respect for the stepmother. There’s also a storyline for brother Cornelius who goes to a nearby abandoned fort ostensibly for schooling but really because of a girl. The father remains a stock, underdeveloped character, and while the hardships and loneliness of frontier life are developed in the story, references to relations with Indians appear thrown in merely for good measure. Pleasant but unsubstantial fare. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029133-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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