THE JELLYFISH SEASON

Downing (Daphne's Song) has written a sensitive, moving story that focuses on a family in crisis. When Dad loses his job at the steel mill, 12-year-old Kathleen, her mother, and her three younger sisters must leave their Baltimore home and move to the Chesapeake Bay community of Bay View to live with Uncle Charlie, Aunt Doris, and spoiled 14-year-old Fay. Looking after the younger girls is a job that falls to skinny, brainy, "sensible" Kathleen, who does her best but never seems able to please her tired, tense Mom or the rest of the adults. Kathleen, her 10-yea-old sister Patsy, and Fay are sworn enemies; nevertheless, the sisters discover that Fay has a secret—Joe, 20-year-old sailor-boyfriend who thinks Fay's 18. All the sisters eventually meet Joe at the beach. He's likable and fun and seems to take a brotherly interest in Kathleen, who develops a crush on him. At a local carnival, Patsy tattles about Fay's real age to Joe, and Fay is grounded when her parents see them together. Kathleen feels sorry for her cousin, and the two become more or less friends, to Patsy's chargin. Kathleen's relationship with her mother is on shakier ground, however, especially after she learns that Mom is pregnant again. She finally confronts her mother in an uncharacteristic explosion of temper, which serves to clear the air and to reestablish their loving, confiding relationship. Dad takes a job at Uncle Charlie's gas station, which means the family will be together, albeit in Bay View, not in Baltimore. Downing has drawn an evocative portrait of the struggling American family of our times. Readers who come from similar backgrounds will find it easy to identify with them.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1985

ISBN: 0380716356

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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Wonderful, indeed

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THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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