THE GHOST BEHIND THE WALL

A bored boy finds diversion and danger in the ventilation ducts of his apartment building. David, short and defensive about it at 12, lives with his optician father, whose schedule leaves David home and alone much of the time. When a stray gust makes David aware of the possibilities of the ducts, he begins to explore the building from within, crawling from apartment to apartment and engaging in minor vandalism. At the beginning, it’s just a naughty lark, but then he becomes aware of another presence in the ducts. It’s a ghostly boy who seems to want a friend, but who is malignantly hostile toward Mr. Alveston, an ancient tenant who is simply waiting out the end of his days. When the ghost, energized by David’s illicit presence, wrecks Mr. Alveston’s apartment, a subsequent intervention results in an unlikely friendship between young and old. Burgess (Lady: My Life as a Bitch, 2002, etc.) offers a quiet, odd little story full of musings about memory and age. The ghost itself becomes the embodiment of Mr. Alveston’s lost memories—a revenant indeed, but from before the grave rather than beyond. Characterizations are deft (“David was looking forward to behaving worse than he ever had in his whole life”) and sympathetic, with young, old, and in-between rendered believably and sympathetically. Whether the device of the ghost truly moves beyond artifice is questionable—but the loveliness of the relationship between the young and the very old, and the very real meeting of the minds therein, is spot-on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8050-7149-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

more