A well-illustrated story that makes a few missteps but features an appealing heroine.

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THE PASSAGE AT MOOSE BEACH

In this middle-grade fantasy novel, a girl steps through a magic barrier into a new realm, where she tries to help creatures suffering from a drought.

Eleven-year-old Alicia loves nothing more than the summers she spends with her parents at their cabin near Cascade, Idaho. The lake is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and observing nature—something that Alicia, who loves earth science, especially enjoys. One day, she and her father row across the lake, but their day is cut short by rain. Just as they’re about to leave, Alicia spies something strange out of the corner of her eye. When she stops trying to focus on it, “suddenly, startlingly, everything pop[s] into clarity” for the girl, who steps forward and finds herself in a new and different reality. As her father searches for her frantically back home, Alicia befriends talking animals in the new world—called the “Wild Side” by its inhabitants. Mickey, a squirrel, explains that the Wild Side is suffering from “The Drying,” a drought caused by Gran’Tree, a tree so enormous that his branches block the sun and his roots suck up all the water. With the help of her new friends, Alicia goes on a dangerous journey to Gran’Tree, hoping that she can convince him to open the barrier, send her home, and end the Drying. Illustrator Allen’s (Four Decades of Paintings & Poems, 2014, etc.) lovely, sensitive black-and-white images accompany the text well. Foster structures his debut novel along the archetypal lines of The Wizard of Oz, which also features a human girl, unusual companions, and a risky journey to ask favors of an all-powerful being. This novel lacks Oz author L. Frank Baum’s loony inventiveness, however. Still, Alicia does come across as an intelligent, science-minded heroine for the modern era, and the story has a fresh ecological focus. Some perplexing authorial choices work against this theme, however; foxes, who are necessary predators, are cast as “evil,” for example, and a tree—often an emblem of ecological balance—hardly seems appropriate as a selfish, resource-stealing villain.

A well-illustrated story that makes a few missteps but features an appealing heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9965683-8-8

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Z Girls Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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