STAINED GLASS

Bedard (Painted Devil, 1994, etc.) returns again to the Canadian town of Caledon for an understated foray into magical realism. Fourteen-year-old Charles is quiet and introspective, with the deliberate fragility of not-quite-healed. In a rundown church, Charles witnesses an accident that shatters one of the ancient stained-glass windows, and discovers a homeless teenage girl bleeding in a pew, apparently a victim of amnesia. This small incident engenders his obsession with helping the strange girl find her way home. Their surreal journey through the town triggers Charles’s cascading memories of his childhood. Meanwhile, the church’s caretaker works frenetically to piece together the shards of the broken window, accompanied by memories of his own past. Although the sources of Charles’s own wounds are eventually revealed, and the girl’s mysterious origins strongly suggested, there is very little story here. Instead, there is a series of finely etched observations and lapidary musings on the nature of memories, how fragments of the past persist to make up the pattern of our individual selves. Bedard’s language is evocative and poetic, rich in metaphor and symbol. Events unfold with a dream-like logic, as the miraculous is made matter-of-fact, while ordinary objects take on outsized significance. Not for everyone, or even for most, but a small gem awaiting the special reader. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-88776-552-1

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2001

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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NO MATTER WHAT

Small, a very little fox, needs some reassurance from Large in the unconditional love department. If he is grim and grumpy, will he still be loved? “ ‘Oh, Small,’ said Large, ‘grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.’ “ So it goes, in a gentle rhyme, as Large parries any number of questions that for Small are very telling. What if he were to turn into a young bear, or squishy bug, or alligator? Would a mother want to hug and hold these fearsome animals? Yes, yes, answers Large. “But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?” There is comfort in Gliori’s pages, but it is a result of repetition and not the imagery; this is a quick fix, not an enduring one, but it eases Small’s fears and may well do the same for children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202061-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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