THE GARDEN OF EDEN MOTEL

Setting the story in the early 1950s, Hamilton has penned a slow-moving but ultimately touching character study about a boy learning to love his new stepfather. Dal Wilkins is 11 and really can’t remember his father, a soldier killed in WWII. His mother has married a jovial, kind man whom Dal calls “Mr. Sabatini.” Dal accompanies Mr. Sabatini on a trip to Idaho; expecting to find the Wild West, Dal instead spends his summer in a tiny, sleepy town. He works in bean fields, goes to barbecues, works up an attraction to Patty Puckett, goes swimming, and spends some strained days with the Dunns, a family of farmers whom Patty ridicules. Patty’s ne’er-do-well father, Len, claims to own a uranium mine, however, and Mr. Sabatini decides to invest. When Mr. Sabatini is bitten by a rattlesnake on a trip to the mine, Dal must summon the same courage his own father and Mr. Sabatini drew upon during the war. He drives to town through the nearly roadless desert, saves his stepfather’s life, and finds that he has a family stronger in love than that found in the Dunn or Puckett brood. This beautifully crafted book, long on plot, feeling, and suspense, features protagonists that are drawn with realism and depth. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16814-0

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

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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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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