PRIVATE CAPTAIN

A STORY OF GETTYSBURG

After his father's death, 12-year-old Ben feels he must bring his big brother Reuben back from the war to help his mother. It's an adventure from the first as he must sneak out at night, and finds all too soon that his younger cousin Danny is as insistent about coming along as is Reuben's dog, Captain. Danny adds a fourth to the expedition when they come across a wild-eyed cow—frightened and unhappy about both the war and not having been milked. The narrative blends cannon shots, rifle sniping, and death with mundane details of two boys struggling to find their way toward the Union troops through Pennsylvania countryside. The pace is somewhat slow, which helps to bring readers slowly to accept the true horrors of war that the boys find when they end up in Gettysburg at the worst possible moment. At first, death is offstage, but gradually the author brings it closer and closer until readers, along with Ben, begin to believe in the inevitability of finding Reuben dead. Adults are kind and indulgent for the most part, which seems unlikely, but given the somber story and the suspense of knowing the boys are headed toward a battle, it works. Sturdy, unadorned historical fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23577-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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WAITING FOR BABY

One of a four-book series designed to help the very young prepare for new siblings, this title presents a toddler-and-mother pair (the latter heavily pregnant) as they read about new babies, sort hand-me-downs, buy new toys, visit the obstetrician and the sonographer, speculate and wait. Throughout, the child asks questions and makes exclamations with complete enthusiasm: “How big is the baby? What does it eat? I felt it move! Is it a boy or girl?” Fuller’s jolly pictures present a biracial family that thoroughly enjoys every moment together. It’s a bit oversimplified, but no one can complain about the positive message it conveys, appropriately, to its baby and toddler audience. The other titles in the New Baby series are My New Baby (ISBN: 978-1-84643-276-7), Look at Me! (ISBN: 978-1-84643-278-1) and You and Me (ISBN: 978-1-84643-277-4). (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84643-275-0

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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