McKENDREE

A period piece set in a small West Virginia town in 1948, this is an unusual coming-of-age story that is both culturally specific and universal. Fourteen-year-old Tilara, an African-American, “could see no other picture of herself but the one she always carried inside.” Surrounded by photographs of her dead mother with cream-colored skin and silky hair and by memories of china white dolls, shy, dark-skinned Tilara is convinced of her unattractiveness. When she visits her aunt, Tilara is headed for a rare summer of freedom from her controlling, though loving, father that will change both their lives. The action centers around McKendree, a home for elderly African-Americans, where teenagers meet each week to do “community service.” As told by Tilara and the others, this is also a tale of tangled summer romance, an element which transcends predictability as it unfolds entertainingly through the multiple perspectives of the characters. It is through the eyes of the likable, if manipulative, March that readers understand Tilara is beautiful. McKendree, by way of parallel, is a place whose purpose masks astonishing beauty. In the end, the romantic entanglements are realistically resolved and Tilara and her father have learned to see each other in new ways. The story is bracketed by an oblique, but key, poetic opening and closing. Although stereotypical standards of beauty are not limited to one race (“blondes have more fun”), what distinguishes this book is its honest exploration of prejudice as it existed within a culture—and perhaps still does. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-15950-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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