Most intellectually disabled characters in children’s fiction are siblings or pals whose treatment by other characters...

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INK ME

From the Seven (The Series) series

Meet Bunny (short for Bernard) O’Toole—mentally slow, physically strong and fast—the observant, nonjudgmental narrator of this convoluted but enjoyable fable of Toronto gang life recorded in believable, phonetically spelled prose.

His grandfather never got around to getting a tattoo while he was alive. He’s left a letter asking Bunny to do it for him and he does, though the tattoo’s design confuses him. The “15” makes sense—it’s his age—but why is there a candle next to it? Is the tattoo why Jaden, whom he rescued from a bully, and his gang befriend him, even though they’re black and Bunny’s white? Accustomed to teasing and harassment, Bunny finds the gang’s close bond exhilarating. Soon, he’s hanging out at Jaden’s gym, where the manager, Morgan, teaches him boxing. (Bunny’s gifts reflect a stereotype, the disability equivalent of the "magical negro" trope.) Bunny enthusiastically joins in their mysterious deal to raise money to keep the gym open. He reacts to what he experiences; his impressions aren’t funneled through a prism of fears and assumptions. (Readers won’t find the gang so benign.) Loyalty is the currency of their world—something Bunny understands.

Most intellectually disabled characters in children’s fiction are siblings or pals whose treatment by other characters signals their compassion or otherwise. Bunny’s a rare hero—not on anyone’s journey but his own. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0016-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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