ANTONIO S & THE MYSTERIOUS THEODORE GUZMAN

Even readers with little interest in the theater will be drawn into this portrayal of the creative process. Ten-year-old Antonio is intrigued to learn that old Mr. Guzman in the ground-floor apartment is a renowned actor. When knocking on his door proves fruitless, Antonio decides to attract his attention by putting on a play in the building’s yard. Antonio knows next to nothing about plays or acting, but as he prods four equally clueless friends into talking and thinking, brainstorming, posing problems, and proposing solutions, gradually something wonderful begins to take shape—a simple comedy that continues to grow and change even while the children are performing it before an audience of parents and local residents. Guzman sees, and applauds, and invites Antonio into his apartment where another wonder waits: a hidden room, in which Guzman can re-enact each of his significant performances on a small stage with casts of exquisitely carved figurines. In an all-too-brief tutelage before falling ill and dying, Guzman introduces Antonio to the essentials of creating a role, of developing narrative, even of stage design. It’s only a bare beginning, but enough to change Antonio in profound ways. Gary L. Blackwood’s Shakespeare’s Scribe (2000) and Kate Gilman’s Jason and the Bard (1993) vividly capture the brawl and excitement of theater, but in its own restrained, contemplative way, Hirsch’s US debut may teach readers more about its soul. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0747-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

Swift's account of Gulliver's captivity in Lilliput and Brobdingnag is considerably shortened and rephrased here, but Riordan expertly preserves the flavor of the original: upon reaching the temple where he is to stay, the intrepid traveler shamefacedly relieves himself before the tiny multitudes (though the more famous scene where he similarly puts out a palace fire is absent); later, he survives plenty of harrowing adventures, admiringly describing the societies in which he's stranded while taking subtle pokes (and not-so-subtle—``Englishmen are the nastiest race of odious little vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth,'' says the king of Brobdingnag) at his own, and at fashion and politics in general. Large or small, Gulliver cuts a heroic figure in Ambrus's pervasive, free-wheeling illustrations; other characters have exaggerated features and a comic air that lighten the satire and serves the narrative well. Swift's ax-grinding can be indigestible in large doses; like other abridged classics from this publisher and illustrator, a palatable, well-blended appetizer. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-279897-9

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1992

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