Cadnum revisits the medieval setting of In a Dark Wood (1998) for this tale of a young squire’s experiences in the first crusade, but once again, his storytelling lacks conviction. Having seen his master’s arm struck off at the order of the Sheriff of Nottingham, strapping apprentice Edmund is saved from the same fate by Nigel and Rannulf, two knights preparing to follow King Richard to the Holy Land. It’s a long, grubby journey, from London to Venice, thence to the siege of Acre, and the subsequent battle of Arsuf, replete with mud, blood, filth, disease, violence, rough humor, moments of beauty, and even fugitive kindness. Edmund views his world, and his own acts, with a detachment that robs his narrative of immediacy, particularly at climactic moments. In the end, he gets a glimpse of Jerusalem, then accompanies Nigel, whose arms have been crushed, back to England. Cadnum builds on a sturdy historical framework, and the naturalistic detail adds plenty of color, but few readers will be truly caught up in Edmund’s adventure. The author’s confessed bafflement over “caring, responsible” adults behaving with such brutality seeps into the story, making it emotionally inaccessible. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88386-7

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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In a well-written gambol through weirdness, Skinner (The Wrecker, 1995, etc.) offers four highly imaginative short stories about young people with supernatural powers. In the first story, Jenny can change the world, and change history, by changing the maps she draws. The narrator, Laurie, knows Jenny is out of control, and when Jenny creates a second sun and splits the earth in two, Laurie is ready to act. The second story is about a world where people “bop”—instant travel just by thinking of a location—instead of walking from one place to another. Mae, however, either can’t bop, or won’t, a prospect that intrigues the narrator. In the third tale, Meredith, who has a supernatural connection with the planet Pluto, and Dexter, who is able to spray-paint with his mind, unite their powers. In the fourth and longest story, Jake finds himself deeply in love with a religious girl, Louise, and both of them are tempted by the powers a metahuman, Nina, has bestowed upon them. All four stories will captivate readers, and may even get them thinking about deeper ideas. Skinner’s often humorous portrayal of young adolescents is on target, and while the stories resemble writing exercises, lacking the sustained, pulse-pounding poetic turns of his novels, they are consistently entertaining. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80556-X

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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