A pleasant, if somewhat derivative, time-travel adventure for early readers.



Twins travel back to Coney Island in 1928 in this chapter book and series opener.

Nine-year-old twins Emma and Simon are excited about their sleepover at their grandmother’s New York City apartment. They request her help with a school project about their family history. She tells them the story of how her parents met on a trolley returning from Coney Island, when Jessie threw peanut shells on Jack’s lap to get him to notice her. To illuminate the tale, she shows the twins a snow globe depicting the Cyclone roller coaster on Coney Island. Watching the snow swirl, Emma and Simon are transported back to June 1928, shortly after the opening of the Cyclone. They immediately see three young women who appear to be Jessie and her two sisters. The twins follow them, quickly determining that they are indeed the children’s great-grandmother and great-great aunts. Curious to witness the meeting of Jack and Jessie on the trolley, Simon and Emma quickly realize that their intervention is essential to guarantee the encounter. Once they ensure their great-grandparents’ meeting takes place as their grandmother described, the two return to her apartment and their next adventure is suggested. Although the concept is strongly reminiscent of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series, the use of a snow globe as the magical feature is singular and the plot is far simpler in this tale, aimed at readers ages 6 to 9. Educator and attorney Stoller (co-author: The Parent-Child Book Club, 2009) does not use the time-travel aspect to impart historical information. The characters and setting are the heart of the enjoyable story. Metler-Smith’s (Swensons, Penick, and the TCR, 2016) black-and-white images are attractive, although the lack of color is puzzling. (Neither the narrative nor illustrations address diversity.) The book includes discussion questions, a recipe for apple crisp (integral to the story), and a craft project, all of which enhance the tale. There is also a photograph of the real-life Jessie and Jack, on whom the book is based.

A pleasant, if somewhat derivative, time-travel adventure for early readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946101-23-5

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Spork

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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