THE BUS PEOPLE

Vignettes from the lives of the kids on Bertram's bus—the ``fruit cake bus'' to a special British school. Regardless of their problems (speechless noises, slobbering, incontinence, seizures), these physically and intellectually limited individuals are vibrantly alive. Rebecca's family loves her, but she's shelved when social pressure hits; some kids are lucky enough to have supportive parents; others are quietly despised at home—or suffocated: e.g., inarticulate Micky, ``sitting like an egg in my wheelchair,'' has an overprotective mum who denies him the chance to go to a special college, his only hope of achieving independence. His thoughts, at least, are eloquent: ``I am enslaved to her care...the ritual dance into which we are both now locked.'' Facing life with a coping sort of logic (and even humor), sensitive to the world and words around them, these children accept handicaps that seem almost insurmountable. We are privileged to be able to listen in on their inner voices, sharing their stories as they occur, and to meet Bertram, the bus driver, who omits from his succinct daily reports the love and humor and respect he feels toward his charges. An attention-holding ``sleeper'' with unusual depth. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1992

ISBN: 0-8050-2297-X

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.

OUT OF THE DUST

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible—fully responsible in the eyes of the community—and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano.

Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it.

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 978-0-590-36080-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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