OUR HOUSE

THE STORIES OF LEVITTOWN

Six very short stories, some skillfully written and some just plain irresistible, about children growing up in Levittown during six different decades, with a historical prologue and a thoughtful epilogue. All of the stories are told in the first-person by narrators who are about ten years old. The first two stories—set in the 1940s and '50s, and the best in the collection—are about kids in hot water. The descriptions are comic and poignant at the same time; every word is used with great aplomb; and, though the main thrust of the stories isn't poetic, they evoke whole aspects of life in Levittown while concentrating on the central episode. In the stories set in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Conrad (Call Me Ahnighito, p. 708) plays around with forms—the first is a dialogue, the second a diary, the third a writer's notebook. None of these has the casual lyricism of the first two, but in some indirect way, each suggests the spirit of the time. In a bold move, the last story is a tragedy, set in the same house as the first, years later. This twist links the stories obliquely and gives the book a kind of philosophical apotheosis. Levittown—the most extreme example of suburbia, where all the houses are literally identical—may have been ridiculed by some aesthetes, but Conrad hunts nostalgically down these streets the way a soldier might return to old army barracks for a look. The stories and their style charm by virtue of their lightheartedness, but for Conrad's elevation of Levittown and the sensations of childhood, she deserves even more praise. (Short stories. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-590-46523-6

Page Count: 67

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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