A kids' tale that features a vivid storyteller who’s also a wise teacher.

MILLY

MY LIFE AS A LABRADOODLE … IN FIVE SHORT DOG TALES

Belenky’s (Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology, 2015, etc.) new children’s book charmingly relates the adventures of Milly, a black Labradoodle with a flair for persuasion.

These five tales, perfectly pitched for middle-grade readers, begin with a first-person (or rather, first-dog) origin story. Readers learn about where Milly was born and about her human “parents,” Mother Mary and Capt’n Bob. Milly is smart—so smart, in fact, that she attends a local law school and receives a degree. This helps her defend herself from accusations of stealing tennis balls, and her argument convinces the judge, a miniature schnauzer: “I say that if a ball is thrown to someone, whether dog or person, it becomes a gift, fair and square,” says Milly. “It is then his or hers to chomp on. That is how the world works.” At the end of this tale, questions for the “Intelligent Reader” appear: “Does Milly really steal tennis balls?” What makes a dog “good” or “bad”? “If you needed a lawyer, would you or would you not hire Milly? Why/why not?” Not only are these queries amusing, but they also encourage youngsters to appreciate the differences between species. In addition, the book helps readers appreciate pets’ quirky personalities. The use of Milly’s voice instructs in lively ways, as she says early on: “Capt’n Bob writes short stories about me that are mostly lies or exaggerations at best.” Of herself, though, she says that she’s “famous everywhere for my open mindedness.” At one point, for instance, Milly desires a pet of her own, so she goes to an elementary school to see if there are any children on sale. The book is full of humor and worldly awareness; a tale about Milly’s distrust of squirrels, for example, ends on a compassionate note when she visits an elderly pair of them at their home to sip some fermented pine sap. The final story, about why wolves (and sometimes dogs) howl at the moon, looks at the mysteries of mortality in a gentle, magical manner.

A kids' tale that features a vivid storyteller who’s also a wise teacher.

Pub Date: April 5, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 49

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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