KNOCKABEG

A FAMINE TALE

An author of historical fiction and nonfiction tries her hand in the faery world. The Good People or Trooping Faeries declare war on their enemies when they discover the evil Nuckelavees’ plan to take over all of Ireland by ruining the potato crop. Without potatoes as a food source, the mortal families won’t have food to leave out for the faeries, the humans and faeries will starve, and both will have to abandon the land to the Nuckelavees. Lyons’s human and spirit characters have distinct personalities, which serve to invest readers in caring about the survival of the faeries in the various battle scenes. Most interesting of all is Sticky, an oddly mysterious faery who is revealed to be an evil Solitary One serving out a five-year punishment among the Good People. She holds the fate of both the Trooping Faeries and the mortal family she loves in her hands, and not until the somewhat suspenseful end do readers discover whether Sticky will do the right thing. Narrated by a seanchaí—Gaelic for “storyteller”—this contains many colloquial expressions, some of which are defined in the glossary. Try giving this to lovers of historical fiction or fantasy; paired with Patricia Reilly Giff’s Nory Ryan’s Song (2000), readers will gain another perspective on the 19th-century’s Irish potato famine. (glossary, laws of Trooping Faeries physics, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-09283-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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EAGLE SONG

A rare venture into contemporary fiction for Bruchac (The Circle of Thanks, p. 1529, etc.), this disappointing tale of a young Mohawk transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y., is overstuffed with plotlines, lectures, and cultural information. Danny Bigtree gets jeers, or the cold shoulder, from his fourth-grade classmates, until his ironworker father sits him down to relate—at length- -the story of the great Mohawk peacemaker Aionwahta (Hiawatha), then comes to school to talk about the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on our country's Founding Fathers. Later, Danny's refusal to tattle when Tyrone, the worst of his tormenters, accidentally hits him in the face with a basketball breaks the ice for good. Two sketchy subplots: Danny runs into an old Seminole friend, who, evidently due to parental neglect, has joined a gang; after dreaming of an eagle falling from a tree, Danny learns that his father has been injured in a construction- site accident. A worthy, well-written novella—but readers cannot be moved by a story that pulls them in so many different directions. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8037-1918-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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