Earnest and bighearted but too pat overall.

Shaky Man

Set in Texas in the 1960s, this YA novel teaches tolerance through the experiences of its young protagonist and narrator, “Tops” Parsley.

In his short debut novel, writer Parker gives us Tops; his friends Mickey Jackson, Joe Ellis, and Rex Johnson; and Shaky Man, named for his inherited palsy. The story—but for the court scenes in Waco—takes place in the idyllic town of Tonkaway on Tonkaway Creek. The boys are crazy for baseball and other sports; Sunday means church, etc.—but there is a skunk in this woodpile. Two, in fact. One is the intolerance shown to Shaky Man, whom the kids have made into a boogeyman who lives alone and reputedly starves his dogs and eats children (!). Shaky Man is in fact poor material for an ogre or even a curmudgeon. He is a man with a tragic past who welcomes kids rather than eating them. The other, more serious, issue is Mickey’s African-American skin. Again, most of the characters haven’t a prejudiced bone in their bodies, but there are those—“knuckleheads” Tops’ dad calls them—who are not so enlightened. This comes to a head when Mickey’s dad, a janitor at Baylor, discovers the body of a murdered professor and of course becomes the prime suspect. Things look really grim until Shaky Man, who is really Dr. Walter Boone, a retired doctor with a forensic specialty, testifies for the defense. A hung jury saves Leonard Jackson until the real culprit is found and convicted. Some young readers may be moved by the book, the period touches (e.g., Star Trek and Wild Kingdom on the TV) are fun (although Mr. Spock is mistakenly given a doctor’s title), and Tops is well-drawn. But it’s borderline incredible that the kids could make a boogeyman out of Dr. Boone (see above), and as to the trial of Mickey’s father, in the Texas of 60 years ago, sadly, he would more likely have been railroaded than exonerated.

Earnest and bighearted but too pat overall.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61254-862-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Brown Books Kids

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

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Carrick (Melanie, 1996, etc.) sensitively explores the pain of a parent’s death through the eyes, feelings, and voice of a nine-year-old boy whose world turns upside down when his father becomes terminally ill with cancer. Through a fictional reminiscence, the story explores many of the issues common to children whose parents are ill—loss of control, changes in physical appearance and mental ability, upsets in daily routine, experiences of guilt and anger, the reaction of friends, and, most of all, a fear of the unknown. Although the book suffers from a pat ending and the black-and-white sketches emphasize the bleakness of the topic, this title is a notch above pure bibliotherapy and will fill a special niche for children struggling to deal with the trauma of parental sickness and death. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-84151-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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A good choice for young children who love fairies, and for parents and teachers who appreciate a valuable lesson delivered...


In this delightful picture book, Dixie the fairy overcomes her fears to save a friend.

Young Dixie has a problem–while fairies in Pixie Land are usually born with four wings, she has only two, and this causes her to get all tangled up and quit in defeat whenever she tries to fly. She is sad to discover that she can’t just wish her situation away. But when a bumblebee is swept away in the river, Dixie decides that her friend’s predicament is more important than her fears. In choosing to forget herself, she gains enough strength to fly to the rescue. Shaheen’s illustrations provide just the right touch, particularly when imparting expressions of sympathy and encouragement to Dixie’s bug friends, portraying surprise on a fish’s face and depicting how Dixie plucked up the drenched bee, “grabbed him by his fuzzy stuff,” and saved the day. Told in rhyme that does not miss a beat, this charming story delivers its moral with a light touch and gentle humor. Dixie is a heroine who chooses to be strong despite her insecurity and limitations, and learns to be happy with who she is, making this a tale that deserves to be read and reread many times over.

A good choice for young children who love fairies, and for parents and teachers who appreciate a valuable lesson delivered with wisdom and whimsy.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-9793823-0-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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