HENRIETTA HORNBUCKLE’S CIRCUS OF LIFE

Twelve-year-old Henrietta Hornbuckle was born into Filbert’s Traveling Clown Circus and is determined to stay a clown forever. She’s never stepped inside a house or school, and she never wants her life of constant change to, well, change: “Hers was an existence of freedom and movement. Who had it better than that?” Henrietta’s security lies in her doting parents’ love, especially that of her father, who, at 4 feet 3 inches tall, is her mirror—both character-wise and in clown routines. When he is killed by a car on Long Island one night, Henrietta is numb, disbelieving. The clean, engaging third-person narration and rapid-fire dialogue distinguish this artfully concise novel about the inevitability of change, for better or worse. Not only is the straight-shooting style an interesting contrast to the colorful circus backdrop, it echoes Henrietta’s endearingly blunt manner and stubborn nature. What will win out: stability, in the form of an offer of money and housing extended by Henrietta’s wealthy Aunt Carlotta, or the promise of the unknown? One thing’s for sure: The show must go on! (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-33513-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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