SEPARATE SISTERS

Separated by divorce, two talented sisters come together in crisis. Thirteen-year-old Donni, the artist, lives with her father. Trisha, an aspiring writer, lives with their mom. But when the increasingly incorrigible Donni is suspended from sixth grade for cursing out the vice principal, Donni’s mother brings the girls together, enlisting Trisha—whom Donni dubs “Trisha the Perfect”—as tutor. The eighth-grader accepts the challenge, happy to spend time with her estranged sister and close the gap on loneliness. Despite the support of her family and the school psychiatrist, Donni’s progress is erratic; when the vice principal rejects the portrait she’s made as a peace offering, Donni loses control, believing that he is denying her the one thing that keeps her sane in the midst of change: her art. Then Donni runs out of class the day after reading Trish’s journal and discovering that she too is having trouble. Threatened with reform school, Donni admits her emotions to her mother who explains the psychological dimensions of Donni’s discipline problems to the vice principal. Soon, he commissions Donni to decorate his office with artwork. At the same time, Donni makes amends with Trisha, who she finally recognizes as an ally. Driven by Donni, the narrative alternates with Trisha, whose voice is differentiated by the font of her journal entries. Minor flaws aside, Springer deftly portrays the acute uncertainty of adolescence. But more information about the circumstances behind the divorce and the current state of affairs between the parents would help to explain Donni’s unrelenting angst. While the plot is obvious—a child acting out in hopes of drawing the parents together—the drama makes for utterly engaging reading. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8234-1544-9

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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BYSTANDER

Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. Victim David’s pain is evident from the first moment newcomer Eric sees him, but he tries not to acknowledge the reality before him. His mother is trying for a fresh start in this Long Island community, as his father has succumbed to schizophrenia and left her and their two boys on their own. Griffin, the bullying instigator, has charisma of sorts; he is a leader and yet suffers under his father’s bullying and aggression. For Eric to do the right thing is neither easy nor what he first wants to do, and the way he finds support among his classmates is shown in logical and believable small steps. Eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud, the narrative offers minimal subplots to detract from the theme. The role of girls is downplayed, except for classmate Mary, who is essential to the resolution, enhancing appeal across gender lines. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37906-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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