GHOST AT THE WINDOW

This atmospheric ghost story delivers enough tension and shivers to satisfy all young ghost and mystery connoisseurs. Set near a loch in Scotland it has loads of fascinating elements, including an eerie house, a lost soul trapped between worlds, and a sealed closet concealing a dark secret. Within the ancient walls of Ninian House, strange things occur. It was built and rebuilt throughout the ages with stones and logs left over from the likes of Roman walls and crumbling abbeys. The house trips from time dimension to time dimension, one moment in the Middle Ages, the next flitting to the Victorian, but always back to the present. Ewan, our hero, and his artistic parents are eccentric enough to appreciate this about the house, but Ewan is discomfited by the appearance one day of the wan young girl, Elspeth, who pleads for help before vanishing again. Elspeth, we soon learn, died of diphtheria in the ’30s. As she was about to pass away, the house shifted its place in time and trapped her. Ewan helps Elspeth, although it isn’t as easy as it first appears. The key solution turns out to be Elspeth’s cousin, Alex, now a grown man and priest. Disjointed elements rush to align too conveniently as when readers learn that the priest, Alex, is also a kind of ghost guide. But overall, McAllister’s (Hold My Hand and Run, 2000) tightly wound plot speeds along without a wasted word. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-525-46852-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

OUT OF THE DUST

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible—fully responsible in the eyes of the community—and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano.

Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it.

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 978-0-590-36080-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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