An elegiac and celebratory fantasy.

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THE PRINCESS & THE PARAKEET

Clark (The Royal Fables, 2016, etc.) offers a middle-grade fairy tale about two people hindered by a sorcerer’s spells.

To celebrate Princess Brooke’s 12th birthday, the king and queen give her a bedroom containing loads of flowers and an apple tree sapling. It also has a ceiling with an open skylight. However, when Brooke steps beneath it, she briefly disappears, then reappears beside her parents. It’s revealed that she’s not allowed to go outside because of a spell that a sorcerer, Beauregard, created to punish the queen. The next morning, Brooke wakes to find a creature perched in her small tree—“a snow-white Parakeet with golden feathers on its head.” She’s further surprised to learn that the bird speaks; his name, he says, is Prince Benjamin Mordecai Higginbotham. He’s also under a spell, and Brooke is the first person to understand him. They become fast friends, but then the princess comes down with a horrible fever. She dreams of being a bird herself, battling her way through the flora and fauna of an evil forest. Later, the princess and parakeet decide to do something about the spells holding them back—and to face the sorcerer who meddled in their lives. In this elegant fantasy, Clark presents characters who cope gracefully with affliction and enjoy life on their own terms. Along the way, the story discusses various forms of meditation, including the king’s, which involves “taking the time to figure out how things went together, looking at things from every angle.” It also offers intriguing details, such as the idea that parakeets “see the world slightly more enhanced than humans, more colorfully.” In the book’s first half, Clark delivers an enjoyably wandering narrative, following on Benjamin’s notion about stories: “when a character veers away from the plot....It’s as if I’ve been given a glimpse of them off the page, sharing something private.” Later, the narrative gallops down a more traditional fantasy path, even confronting the horrors of war. An afterword tells of the late Brooke Hester, the young girl who provided the inspiration for the tale, which gives the happy ending a bittersweet flavor.

An elegiac and celebratory fantasy.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9910345-7-4

Page Count: 265

Publisher: BlahBlahBlah Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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