Especially effective are Jazmin’s witty descriptions of neighbors and local characters; just as compelling is Jazmin’s...



There’s a poetic soul taking notes up on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City, and her name is Jazmin Shelby, the star witness to the hard lives and high hopes in a novel from Grimes (Come Sunday, 1996, etc.).

Jazmin has her sights set on college, but meanwhile she keeps her eyes open, noticing all the comings and goings of her 1960s neighborhood from her front stoop. She records everything in her notebook, including a running commentary on her family, feelings, friendships, hopes, and disappointments. Her father has been dead a year, and her mother—a mentally unstable alcoholic— is hospitalized; Jazmin’s life has included shuttling between relatives and foster homes, living in rat-infested tenements, and avoiding the everyday violence of the streets. Older sister CeCe is a source of strength, who, along with some supportive neighbors and teachers, have helped Jazmin hang on to her goals and resist the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity. Peppering the first-person narration with poems from Jazmin’s journal, Grimes paints a vivid picture of her character’s surroundings.

Especially effective are Jazmin’s witty descriptions of neighbors and local characters; just as compelling is Jazmin’s interior landscape, in which a wiser, more reflective voice hints at the young woman—and writer—she’ll become. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8037-2224-9

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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Stories about the author's childhood adventures growing up in a small town, including one in which a delinquent dog tangles with a skunk, and two in which eminently satisfying tricks are played on pompous bullies. Others involve youthful disasters, accident-prone friends, eccentric townsfolk, camp-outs, and crazy schemes. McManus is a sort of Dave Barry for kids. His stories are not merely amusing: They are laugh-out-loud, stomach-clutching, tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks hilarious. Factual or not, the names of people display a backwoods Dickensian humor, from Rancid Crabtree, the old woodsman, to a friend, Retch Sweeney, and his two kid brothers, Erful and Verman, and to Miss Goosehart, a teacher at Delmore Blight Grade School. The humor is often broad, but its expression is matter-of-fact; McManus writes for those with good vocabularies who can read between the lines. Really comic stories that also treat this audience with intelligence are something of a rarity; this collection is as welcome as lemonade in the desert. (Short stories. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4662-3

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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