Both poignant and hopeful, a beautifully calibrated coming-of-age tale that deals thoughtfully with grief and recovery.


In this debut middle-grade novel, a girl learns at summer camp that she has an unusual ability, which may help in hunting for her brother.

On the way to Camp Glynwood for the summer, Celia Johnson, 11, is already working out the details of how she’ll return to Brooklyn. She has no intention of enjoying four weeks in the woods while her younger brother, Kyel, is missing. True, camp isn’t as bad as she feared; the girls come in every complexion, including her own “dark hot chocolate” shade, and the place feels “loved and worn…like her favorite Brooklyn Dodgers sweatshirt,” once Kyel’s. She even makes tentative friends with a quirky blond girl, Violet, whose father has died. Nevertheless, on her first night, Celia escapes, but crash-lands her borrowed bicycle in the woods, where she makes an incredible discovery: She can talk to animals. Some of them think they can help with Celia’s search, but she must stay at camp and arrange to visit the Snapping Turtle King. He has a certain gift that could aid Celia, but has been driven insane by grief, blaming another long-ago “Speaker” for the death of his wife. Celia, meanwhile, must face an important truth and several difficulties before she can carry out some crucial tasks—with unexpected assistance from several camp figures—and restore the balance of several lives. In her novel, Hales writes with sensitivity about loss, using well-honed images. Violet’s laugh, for example, “made Celia think of a flash of tinsel catching the sunlight from a grey, winter sidewalk. There was a sharp crispness wrapped in sadness that Celia understood.” Animals and people are deftly characterized, and the author does a nice job of capturing the atmosphere of a good summer camp: its activities, traditions, in-jokes, and sensory feel. Celia’s psychological growth from denial to acceptance of loss is artfully and realistically handled, despite the book’s fantasy aspects, which work well as a kind of drama taking place in a symbolic landscape.

Both poignant and hopeful, a beautifully calibrated coming-of-age tale that deals thoughtfully with grief and recovery.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73304-940-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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