Memorable for its cast, if not its patchy plot, this tale revolves around a teenager regaining his balance, both figuratively and literally, after losing most of his upper-class family. But as the title indicates, it’s really more about the lives and characters of the elderly relatives who take him in. A plane crash has left Tate Stonemason without parents, grandparents, or siblings, and with a shattered leg that has brought an end to his dreams of playing professional baseball. Only his great grandfather Abbott and Abbott’s adopted daughter, Vidalia, herself over 70, remain to care for him. They do that, in part, by sharing baseball memories: Abbott, of attending Ty Cobb’s funeral; Vidalia, of “Ethiopia’s Clowns,” African-American barnstormers who raised her for ten years during the Depression era after she was left as a baby on the team bus. Peck (Cowboy Ghost, 1999, etc.) stitches together a set of connected but separate tales. They include an airport worker’s act of negligence that causes the crash; the Clowns’ experiences in towns both hostile and welcoming; the adoption of young Vidalia into the Stonemason family despite the color of her skin; and finally, Vidalia’s death, and the keeping of certain promises made to her by Tate and Abbott. The Stonemasons’ oddly stilted way of speaking with each other—“ ‘Mr. Tate believes that there’s only darksome, but all he has to do is wait patient for a dawn. No storm endures forever. There always comes a sunup. Perhaps not the perfect day, but nevertheless a spanking-fresh one.’ ”—has the effect of bringing out how strong, close, and loving they are, and though the worst of Tate’s dark night passes between chapters, his healing brings the story to a strong close. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-028867-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Patneaude (The Last Man’s Reward, 1996, etc.) hatches a silly plot and one-dimensional characters, but preteens might enjoy this piece of escapist entertainment about a boy wrongly committed to a mental asylum. Peter’s weak-willed mother has lied to him all his life about his real father, allegedly dead. Peter doesn’t get along with his stepfather, a car salesman, who schemes to have him committed by a corrupt psychiatrist. In the asylum, Peter befriends two disturbed inmates and a health technician who help him escape. Among the absurd plot concoctions: Peter’s five-year-old half-brother, Lincoln, is psychic, allowing Peter extraordinary access to clues he needs to find his real father; and that his father has been searching for Peter all along. Patneaude resurrects elements from his first novel, Someone Was Watching (1993), in which a supposedly drowned sister has really been kidnapped, and in which a cross-country trip unfolds without much mishap. His writing style, however, is so robust that even if readers find little remotely connected to reality in these pages, there’s more than enough suspense in the fast-paced narrative to keep them entertained. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8075-9098-3

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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Pearson (The Secret Box, 1997, etc.) leaves nothing between the lines in this patchy tale of a perfect family that turns out to be anything but. To Maddie, the vivacious, unconventional McBeans have always made her own Illinois family look dull, and so, a year and a half after their move to California, she looks forward eagerly to a two-week stay with them. She finds them as welcoming as ever—more so, as her friend Beanie’s older brother Buddy, formerly a bully of the worst sort, gives her a warm hello. Beanie, on the other hand, seems more of a wimp than ever, moody, self-deprecating, and clumsy. Initially, Maddie finds Buddy’s recklessness more exciting than scary, and discounts Beanie’s warnings, but his true colors come out, in a contrived way, during a beach party. Refusing, as always, to see what Buddy is really like, the McBean parents turn on Maddie; she cuts her visit short and flies home, newly appreciative of her own staid but reliable parents, and meditating on the raw deal both Beanie and Buddy have gotten from theirs. Readers will have trouble accepting both Maddie’s friendship, characterized more by dissension than commonalities, with Beanie, and her attraction to the so obviously dysfunctional McBean family in general, but the point that fair surface can hide foul heart is strongly, unflinchingly driven home. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-82579-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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