Bonus content aplenty, but first-time readers will be better off with either the print or the unadorned e-book version.


Digital distractions—many of them tangential, at best, to the story—have been positively shoveled into this “multi-touch edition” of Britain’s 2013 Carnegie Medal winner.

The actual story is set in an alternate Britain under the boot of an authoritarian Motherland and narrated by Standish, a bullied, dyslexic teenager who exposes a much-ballyhooed moon landing as a hoax. Adjustable of font size and also presenting different views in portrait and landscape orientation, the enhanced e-book is festooned with dozens of thumbnail images and icons in the margins. Tapping these activates extras that include video clips of the author vaunting her own dyslexia (“the greatest gift you’ve ever been given”), her troubles at school or a nearly 10-minute inspirational “speech for losers.” There are also dramatically read snippets from the text, writing prompts, review quizzes, original video shorts, and slide shows on topics such as recent civil wars or outbreaks of genocide. Photos of historical documents and skeletal constructs representing a sinister “leather coat man” mingle with Crouch’s original line drawings (presented separately here and also as a disturbing stop-motion animation) of a dead rat filling up with maggots. All of this added material, interesting as it may be, makes it nigh impossible either to follow the already-chronologically-jumbled plotline or to be caught up for more than a few moments at a time in Standish’s mordant, often lyrical narrative.

Bonus content aplenty, but first-time readers will be better off with either the print or the unadorned e-book version. (afterword, with links and more imbedded video) (Enhanced e-book/science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013


Page Count: -

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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