THE STRANGER NEXT DOOR

Fans of Kehret (Saving Lily, 2001, etc.)—and fans of cats—will appreciate this suspenseful novel about two boys who discover friendship after facing peril. This is thanks in no small part to the author’s resourceful feline, Pete the Cat, who “cowrote” the novel (his contributions to Kehret’s narrative are explained in the amusing prologue and are italicized throughout). Said feline also wrote a juicy role for himself within the storyline so that he figures in the solution to the mystery. Happily for readers, while Pete’s “speech” sounds like plain old meow to his unknowing owners, his writing is perfectly comprehensible as English. Twelve-year-old Alex Kendrill has moved to a new housing development in Seattle with his parents, six-year-old brother, and pet cat. Friendless at school and picked on by some bullies, Alex’s spirits pick up when he learns a new family is moving in next door. Believing he might make a new friend at last, Alex’s hopes are dashed when the boy, Rocky Morris, in fact shuns contact and is evasive about himself and his past. Kehret keeps her story exciting and dangerous. There are vandals afoot, not to mention a mysterious arsonist who attempts to murder Alex in a terrifying episode in which Alex is trapped in a house that the arsonist has set ablaze. Add to this Rocky’s constant fear that his family’s closely guarded secret will be found out: they are in the Witness Protection Program because Rocky’s mom’s testimony before Congress will bring down a major drug kingpin. All these ingredients add up to a satisfying, fast-paced read. Readers will be caught up in the action even as they are amused by Pete’s astute observations and adroit detective work. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46829-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more