UNITED TATES OF AMERICA

Danziger (What a Trip, Amber Brown, 2001, etc.) breaks new ground with this amusing middle-school story illustrated in a novel way—with scrapbook art by the author done in the style of the sixth-grade narrator, Skate Tate. (Scrapbooking is the popular hobby of compiling photo albums and decorating the pages with stickers and special papers.) In diary-like fashion, Skate tells the story of her first stressful months at Biddle Middle School, when she must adjust to a long bus ride, a new building, different friends, and the sudden death of her adored globetrotting relative called GUM (the family nickname for Great-Uncle Mort). The first-person story is told in present tense, mainly in one-sentence paragraphs that approach stream-of-consciousness mode, supplemented with the addition of a few school assignments and scrapbook entries in different typefaces. Skate has lots of typical sixth-grade worries about her place at school and with her friend, but she has a solid, happy family life, and her wise great-uncle helps her with her self-confidence issues in some creative ways that support Skate’s budding talent as an artist. A 32-page, full-color insert of sample scrapbook pages shows photographs of Skate and her family and friends (using friends of the author for the models), including several pages detailing a family trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Danziger creates a believable, humorous world for Skate and her family, and GUM is a character anyone would love to have as a relative. The author’s scrapbook art may inspire readers to try crafting their own documentary pages. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-69221-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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