An action-filled story about dog sledding and teamwork presented in just the right way for its readership.

SOJO

MEMOIRS OF A RELUCTANT SLED DOG

An Alaskan sled dog narrates her adventures.

Sojo, born in Alaska, is not sure she wants to be a sled dog. Everyone says she is beautiful, so she thinks she may want to be a show dog instead. But Pam, Sojo’s white human who raises sled dogs, has plans to cross the 2,500 miles of Arctic tundra alone with her dog sled team, and Sojo is picked. Sojo’s narrative voice as she relates the Arctic adventure—the main thrust of the book—is jaunty, with just the right amount of goofiness to appeal to young readers’ sensibilities, while Farnsworth’s black-and-white illustrations add charm. What is notable about the story is its sterling ring of authenticity. The many details of what it takes in both planning and, er, doggedness to mush across frozen tundra during Arctic winters are fascinating. Since it is Sojo narrating, there isn’t much waxing poetic about natural beauty; instead there is action, action, action. Lessons about teamwork and courage are doled out, but they are strictly in service to the story. Readers will come to understand the loyalty and camaraderie between Pam and her dog sled team as well as the absolute dependence each species has on the other for survival in the harsh environment.

An action-filled story about dog sledding and teamwork presented in just the right way for its readership. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943328-53-6

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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