REMEMBERING THE GOOD TIMES

One of Peck's more serious young novels, this is the story of three friends—four, if you count Kate's tart great-grandmother Polly, who completes their daily gathering for cards and conversation. It is told by Buck, the most placid among them, and focuses on what culminates in the suicide of Trav, the most troubled. Of the three young people, classmates at Slocum Township Junior High, the determined Kate, a natural leader and do-er, is "a hardcore Slo" (a rural local), Tray a well-off but alienated "Sub" (one of the IBM kids, punks, and preppies who inhabit the new subdivisions), and Buck a different sort of newcomer who lives in a trailer with his divorced hard-hat father and doesn't know where he belongs, but doesn't seem to worry. Trav, on the other hand, is always worried: about Soviet strategy in Latin America, about SATs two years early, about growing up in general. Unaccountably, on the night Kate is starring in the school play, Tray lands in the police station, caught shoplifting little kids' toys. Shipped off to an uncle's farm, he returns oddly calm, then hangs himself. Looking back, his shaken friends can see it coming, but can't explain it. Neither, it seems, can Peck, which makes the story seem oddly unresolved. Still, that's certainly preferable to a facile psychological case history; and the whole account has an air of firmly planted, strongly felt reality.

Pub Date: April 5, 1985

ISBN: 0440973392

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1985

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An A+ for Little E and his creator.

LITTLE EXCAVATOR

A petite excavator named Little E finds his place among a crew of full-sized, heavy-construction equipment working together to build a park.

The anthropomorphic Little E, with bright, friendly eyes and a cheery smile, invites readers into the story on the large-format cover. He is followed by a brown-and-white–spotted dog, which appears throughout the story as a friend to Little E. The construction vehicles arrive at an abandoned lot and begin working together to transform the property into a park. The rollicking, rhyming text names each type of rig and its function, including lots of sound effects and action verbs set in display type integrated into the illustrations: “Pusha-pusha smusha-smusha SMASH SMASH SMASH!” Little E tries to help with each step, but he is either too small or not strong enough for the task at hand. The last step of the park-construction project is the planting of a tree on an island reached by a bridge, but all the big rigs are too large to safely cross the wooden bridge. In a pitch-perfect conclusion, Little E is just the right size for the job. Dewdney, the late author/illustrator of the Llama Llama series, has constructed a solid winner for one of her final books, with an appealing main character, vibrant illustrations with varying perspectives, and an action-packed, rhyming text with sound effects just begging to be read aloud with dramatic effect.

An A+ for Little E and his creator. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99920-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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