PORCH LIES

TALES OF SLICKSTERS, TRICKSTERS, AND OTHER WILY CHARACTERS

The author of The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992), illustrated by Brian Pinkney, mines a lighter vein with nine original tales that hark back to yarns from her Tennessee childhood. Opening with reminiscent scene-setters, all feature human “slicksters and tricksters” able to get what they want with charm, like con man Pete Bruce—who scores a generous portion of coconut cream pie from an undeceived cook—or despite bad reputations end up performing some worthy deed, as does chauffeur Lincoln Murphy, who excavates a prematurely buried employer. Other tales feature appearances from Frank and Jesse James, helping to rid sharecroppers of a white predator; from Ralph, king of the ghosts; and from the Devil himself, who makes a young musician the same so-tempting offer once made to bluesman Robert Johnson at a certain crossroads. Capped by blues harmonica player Cake Norris’s two-part odyssey up and down the ladder to Heaven, these tales all lend themselves to telling or reading aloud, and carry the common theme that even the worst rascals have saving graces. (author’s introduction) (Short stories. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83619-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THE RIGHT-UNDER CLUB

Summertime finds a strange combination of five middle-schoolers high up in a leafy tree house in their newly formed support group, the “R.U. Club,” where the secret is what “R.U.” means and what they do in the club. They could not be more unlike one another and yet each deeply understands what it is like to live in a new family because of death or divorce: They feel like leftovers, “even though we are right under their noses.” Each one takes a turn to describe her concern or worry. Anonymously, in written suggestions and then in group brainstorming sessions, they discuss solutions. Then as the girls put their trust in collective wisdom and thoughtfully apply effort and action through careful heartfelt adherence to club rules, camaraderie develops. Mounting interest in the characters and their adjustments to family life builds to a too-sweet conclusion, which could be redressed in a sequel, yet five genuine multifaceted characters together with their families make a large cast of characters. which Deriso handles adeptly. An interesting group that begs for a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73334-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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