Readers will eventually sigh in relief with Archer and friends.

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THE DOLDRUMS

From the Doldrums series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Archer B. Helmsley enlists his best friend, Oliver Glub, and Adélaïde, the new student from France, to help him track down his explorer grandparents in Antarctica—despite the fact that Archer’s mother confines him to two places: his museumlike home and his school.

After a preface promising that Archer is not one of those “perfect boys” who “live in perfect houses owned by perfect parents” and are “perfectly dull,” Part 1 sets up the story of Archer’s restricted life, its tedium mitigated by Archer’s conversations with taxidermic animals and by clandestine meetings with Oliver. Part 2 brings Adélaïde into the picture as an independent, peg-legged ex-ballerina, and Part 3 is called “The Journey Begins.” The story is full of humor: the farcical, larger-than-life, domineering women of home and school; slapstick scenes involving Archer’s clumsiness and Oliver’s unfortunate habit of running with his eyes closed; whimsical wordplay, as in Oliver’s plaintive request, “I’ve only had far-death experiences and I’d prefer to keep it that way.” It’s a bit long, considering the number of not-quite-eventful events, but it’s also amusing, heartwarming, and zany. Though not as fast-paced as a Roald Dahl story, it is similar in terms of its magical realism and some absurdly naughty or nice characters. Archer, however, realistically shows both kindness and mean-spiritedness as he pursues his quest. The debut author also provides delicate, full-color illustrations throughout.

Readers will eventually sigh in relief with Archer and friends. (Adventure. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232094-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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