FREAKY STUFF

In a second round of droll ups and downs, Brian, the young narrator of Weird Stuff (2006), struggles to cope with his little brother Matthew’s total identification with a crew of kickboxing zombie fighters on a new TV show. This while trying to look out for Sebastian, a kindergartener who sports cardboard fairy wings, flower garlands and pockets of strangely effective “fairy dust,” and in the meantime earning instant notoriety for a role in a fruit juice commercial as “The Kid Who Sucks.” As before, Brian reports all this to his favorite author, who responds by complimenting him on his fertile imagination. Brian’s divorced parents don’t believe him either—until Matthew starts a riot at the local mall and Brian helps Sebastian quell it with liberal applications of . . . guess what. Aside from an earnest, unconvincing screed about violence on TV, this otherwise nonstop romp, which is strewn with faux-crude ink drawings done on torn loose-leaf (plus a set of small flip-page images), is perfectly tuned to its intended middle-grade audience. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8027-9623-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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