THE BEASTLY ARMS

Nickel is a sixth-grader so attuned to animals that he sees them everywhere: first in the clouds—where the mutable shapes in the sky become camels, kangaroos, musk-oxen, and hares—and then in the people he meets in his city, recognizing in each an animal in disguise, bipedal like Miriam, his companion kangaroo rat. Nickel’s concentration is all for the revealing of these animals, with little left for the world itself. His best friend, down-to-earth Inez, tolerantly calls him a bush baby and the image of those big eyes suits Nickel’s observant character. He photographs the clouds and develops the pictures in the darkroom of the college where his mother teaches. The process of capturing and bringing to light pictures on film is carefully, gracefully detailed, and sets the pace for a novel full of revelations and dream-like encounters. The arc of the story is drawn by Nickel’s desire to uncover the mystery of The Beastly Arms and its odd landlord, Julius Beastly. Nickel discovers the Beastly Arms while apartment hunting with his mother. Mr. Beastly is so eager to have them as tenants that he paints the front door and appears in a suit for their return visit to the building. He sets the rent so low that—given what Nickel and his mother both recognize as the man’s essentially benign demeanor, and in spite of the place’s persistent smell of animal dung—they can’t refuse. When Nickel uncovers the mystery, it is less a surprise to the reader than a kind of enchantment: The building is Mr. Beastly’s sanctuary for hundreds of the wild creatures who once lived in the spaces the city now occupies—rooms and rooms filled with small animals (“mice . . . voles, shrews, ferrets, gophers and moles”), along with opossums, foxes, bats, and an owl or two. Mr. Beastly recognizes in Nickel a kindred spirit and enlists him as an apprentice caretaker for his wild charges. Beastly begins to reconnect with the world of humans while bestowing on Nickel a real connection to wild creatures in this richly imagined kind-hearted novel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-16589-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

more