Humorous and charming tales with old-fashioned appeal and delightful images.



A collection of new and previously published stories about a girl and her adventures with her real and toy animal friends.

Squirrel Hill is a farmhouse in the country near a small forest called Briar Woo. Madison, the young, white girl who lives there, loves climbing an apple tree and exploring with her friends. These include plush animals—such as a male elephant named Ellie, a monkey called Sergeant Monk-Monk, and Kitty, a cat—as well as living ones. The first three stories here appeared in Clark’s (Just an Ordinary Elephant and The Bald Cardinal, 2018, etc.) two previous books. In these tales, Madison sets out with several pals to cross the forest on an expedition to find North Africa; Ellie wants to be seen as special for wearing a straw hat, but it’s his kindness that makes his friends think he’s “very special indeed.” Kitty, who tends to be self-centered and conceited, finds herself being kind to an unfortunate bird. The new tales start with “Big Audie and The Runt,” in which Madison teaches a bullying raccoon a lesson about sharing. In “A Fly in Kitty’s Whiskers,” she gives Kitty her doll’s eyeglasses to wear “whenever she wanted to look beautiful, or when she wanted to check her whiskers for flies.” In the final story, Madison’s African American friend Kaila has been told there’s a pink dog on Squirrel Hill; they ask around and finally find the canine. Overall, there’s a pleasantly cozy feeling to these stories, and they’re sometimes reminiscent of the works of A.A. Milne, although Clark displays his own distinct style. Although several of the tales here have a clear moral, they’re never blatant, and the author softens the messages by employing several moments of gentle, humane humor. The affection that the various human, animal, and toy characters show for one another is also sweet and endearing throughout. Driver’s (Just an Ordinary Elephant and The Bald Cardinal, 2018, etc.) black-and-white, beautifully shaded pencil illustrations are a plus as well; they portray realistic but very expressive animals, and they capture the magic of Squirrel Hill as a setting.

Humorous and charming tales with old-fashioned appeal and delightful images.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79885-589-8

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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