THE REAL SANTA CLAUS

The life of the real St. Nicholas, patron saint of brides, young boys, and seafarers, is laid out in episodic text and artwork. While St. Nicholas’s generosity led people to celebrate his feast day long before Dr. Clement Moore penned his famous poem, he is largely unknown to most people today. His beneficence began when he heard of a father who could no longer support his three unwed daughters. By throwing bags of money through an open window on three successive nights, he provided the sisters with the dowry they needed to wed, and saved them from being sold into slavery. On almost every page, the reader learns of miraculous occurrences associated with St. Nicholas—from discovering the murderer of three young boys and bringing them back to life, to a time he fed the people during a famine in an event very like the Bible story of the loaves and fishes. Although the text shows several “Santas,” the main focus is on the life of the saint, not on the transition in popularity from St. Nicholas to Santa Claus. The luminous illustrations are reproductions of paintings done in the 13th through 16th centuries. The vibrant pictures glow with an illuminated manuscript-type quality rarely seen in books meant for children. Unfortunately, they are not captioned, but rather listed in the back and indexed by page number—a difficult system when the pages of the book are themselves not numbered. Nonetheless, Mayer’s (The Twelve Apostles, not reviewed, etc.) work is a wonderful tribute to the saint whose generosity is celebrated every year. (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2624-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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