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ALMOST INVISIBLE

The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis

A 13-year-old girl flees her abusive home to live secretly in her school.

Jewel tolerates her parents’ abuse, from the theft of her babysitting money to outright violence, in order to protect her developmentally disabled kid brother. When one of her dad’s drunken friends tries to rape her, her parents turn a blind eye. Jewel knows that she needs to run away for her own safety. She spends 10 days roughing it before she runs out of carefully hoarded food and returns to town—and to school. Jewel attends classes by day and sleeps in the art-room supply cupboard at night. Maya and Lily, two well-off girls, notice her odd behavior and seek her out. In alternating sections, Maya and Jewel share their perspectives on Jewel’s solo adventure. Though Maya’s aid is invaluable, it also leads to Jewel’s discovery by adults. Maya and Jewel, who both appear to be white, come from sharply different social classes. With no other poor families present in the story, the poverty of Jewel’s parents becomes inextricably tied to their abuse. Their bad grammar, cursing, cigarette smoking, motorcycles, and clothing (“way too young for a mother, cleavage,” thinks Maya) all paint a lazily stereotyped picture of criminal trash, in opposition to the kindly rich parents found elsewhere. When Jewel’s situation is wrapped up tidily, that frees Maya up for her next rescue project: a Syrian refugee.

The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis . (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-078-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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TUCK EVERLASTING

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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