BABY SISTER

The search for personal identity and romance are common themes of many YA novels. In a reveling portrait of two sisters and their ambivalent relationship, this story brings a fresh perspective to the roles of dominance and love, power and weakness in the family. Penny's worship of her smart, popular older sister Cass is extreme; as the baby sister she exists on the excitement of reading Cass' diary and comforting Gary, Cass? steady boyfriend, during the couple's frequent quarrels. Cass, the center of the household, periodically tries to get Penny to work harder on homework and dress in outrageous styles. But Cass does dole out some good advice when she tells Penny, "You can't ever be like somebody else. You have to find out what the real you is and let it all hang out. You have to take a few chances." The trouble begins when Penny, discovering a skill and interest in sewing, develops a romance with Gary after Cass leaves for college. Cass lets Penny clown when the younger girl visits her sister at Harvard to get advice—the Final shattering of Penny's illusions about her "wonder-ful" older sister. When Penny announces her engagement to Gary, Cass blows up and reveals her need for Penny's adoration and praise. Characters are well developed, and the truth that one can't copy another's personality is an important one for teen readers. In her diary in a moment of lucid self-knowledge, Cass writes, "I'm not perfect. I'm arrogant, inconsiderate and intolerant. But I want my life to expand outside of myself I want my work to be more than me." Young readers may not understand the irony of such a selfish character holding such grandiose goals. But it is in the humanity of these characters and their contradictions, as well as their values, that Sachs has made an ordinary story extraordinary.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1986

ISBN: 0192716921

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1986

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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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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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