A well-intentioned manual that offers uneven advice.

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LOVE 7

Seven personified character traits teach lessons about respect and other values in this debut children’s guide written by a girl and her grandmother.

Tyler and Greer’s book aims “to promote good manners, positive character traits, and a safe environment for children.” Rarely for such works, Tyler is a child herself, age 9 at the time of writing, giving her perhaps an edge with her peers. The “WORLD FIGHTERS FOR CHARACTER TRAITS” consist of seven human members—Joyful, Love, May, Pixie, Zach, Nikki, and DJG—plus one animal, Candy Cane Cat. They all appear young, somewhat in the chibi style of Japanese illustration, with oversized heads, huge eyes (when not winking or covered by an eye patch), and tiny limbs. They have a range of skin tones, hair colors, and clothing/accessories and a few oddities, like Nikki’s fangs and DJG’s eye patch and face mask (unexplained). Although there’s some differentiation, the team’s traits tend to overlap. Love is considerate; Joyful is well-mannered; and Pixie is helpful. May is compassionate; Joyful is caring; and Nikki is supportive. Zach actually joins the team after the group’s first mission, which transforms him from a bully and teaches him compassion. Two other operations teach respect and integrity. The timely book’s values are stated clearly, and the human cast is wonderfully diverse. But the transformation process raises some questions. In Zach’s case, Candy Cane Cat recommends giving him a “love shower,” which works instantly. It’s an appealing thought but sets the unlikely expectation that changing someone’s behavior is easy and fast and also suggests that stopping bullying is up to kids. Usually experts recommend getting adults to intervene, reserving kindness for the child being bullied. Respect and integrity are instilled with similar ease: for example, “I will transform the students….The students are transformed.” Another goal is to teach roots, prefixes, and suffixes of values-based vocabulary, but this sometimes stumbles on inconsistencies, such as defining “authored” as “With, together, joint,” which actually defines the prefix “co.” And “author” shouldn’t include the suffix “-ed.”

A well-intentioned manual that offers uneven advice.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4897-1849-5

Page Count: 34

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2019

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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