THE HAUNTING

For eight-year-old Barney (short for Barnaby), being haunted begins with that "faint dizzy twist in the world around him, the thin singing drone [in] his ear" . . . then a figure slowly forming out of the air, lamenting in a sort husky voice, "Barnaby's dead! Barnaby's dead! I'm going to be very lonely." When Barney learns later that day that great-uncle Barnaby bas just died, he gasps "I thought it was me!" and faints away. But the haunting continues, with footsteps coming nearer and the voice insisting that Barney must go with him. "You should see yourself," says notebook-scribbling older sister Tabitha, a future novelist who chatters incessantly. "You're really starting to look haunted, you know . . . sort of yellowish and transparent like cooking oil, and your eyes are funny." The eyes, Barney too has noticed, are sometimes not his own: He comes to feel "like a coat or jacket his Great-Uncle Cole can put on and off at will." For by then the children have learned from Grandfather Scholar and his brother, Great-Uncle Guy and Great-Uncle Alberic of a fifth brother, Great-Uncle Cole, who vanished from the scene at twelve. New Great-Uncle Guy reveals to a concerned Tabitha that Cole is a magician; that his order-loving mother, the still-imperious Great-Granny, fought and rejected him from his birth; and that Cole is still alive. Guy, a pediatrician, offers Tabitha a valid psychological explanation for Barney's haunting, which manages to strengthen the story without explaining away the haunting: Even Guy himself doesn't really believe it. The confrontation comes when Cole shows up to claim Barney, whom he believes to be a fellow magician—and Troy, the oldest of the children and the silent, reclusive, and "eerily" tidy one, unmasks the repressive Great-Granny as a magician and, in a series of razzle-dazzle transformations, reveals herself as another. (Of her father's reaction, Troy says later, "I can feel him looking at me and—I don't know—shrinking away. . . . He'll never get over it altogether.") You may have guessed her secret early on, or find the magic less impressive once it's out. But Mahy's deftly penetrating and delightfully phrased observations of the family don't slacken. (In the end we have poor Tabitha, crushed that she's turned out to be the only "ordinary" one, but busy interviewing Cole and taking notes on the whole affair.) Most compellingly, Mahy projects the haunting with such imaginative force and seriousness that you'll hear those footsteps and that husky voice as Barney does, just as you see Barney's pale transparent face and strange bruised eyes through Tabitha's watchful ones.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 1982

ISBN: 0141315830

Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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I AM NOT GOING TO GET UP TODAY!

After an eight-year interval, a Beginner Book by this well-loved originator of the series is welcome; and since Seuss hasn't chosen to illustrate it himself, we are lucky to have Stevenson as alternate. In the familiar Seuss pattern of a simple premise exaggerated to comic effect, a boy declares, "My bed is warm. My pillow's deep. Today's the day I'm going to sleep"—regardless of his mother, various arguments, successive waves of reinforcements, including the Marines, and a TV crew filming the momentous event. Actually, the development of the idea is a little tame compared with Seuss' other extravaganzas (and such determined all-day slumber is more the province of teen-agers and the good doctor's contemporaries than of readers at this level); but the book is delightfully enlivened by Stevenson's vigorous illustrations, which considerably augment the text by showing the full extent of the consternation caused by the hero's stubborness. Though there is plenty of the repetition required by learning readers, there are also some unusual words like Memphis, suggesting that this is not the easiest easy reader; but it has enough appeal to keep beginners entertained.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1987

ISBN: 0394892178

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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