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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GIRL'S BEST FRIEND

From the Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries series

In this series debut, Maggie Sinclair tracks down a dognapper and solves a mystery about the noises in the walls of her Brooklyn brownstone apartment building. The 12-year-old heroine, who shares a middle name—Brooklyn—with her twin brother, Finn, is juggling two dogwalking jobs she’s keeping secret from her parents, and somehow she attracts the ire of the dogs’ former walker. Maggie tells her story in the first person—she’s self-possessed and likable, even when her clueless brother invites her ex–best friend, now something of an enemy, to their shared 12th birthday party. Maggie’s attention to details helps her to figure out why dogs seem to be disappearing and why there seem to be mice in the walls of her building, though astute readers will pick up on the solution to at least one mystery before Maggie solves it. There’s a brief nod to Nancy Drew, but the real tensions in this contemporary preteen story are more about friendship and boy crushes than skullduggery. Still, the setting is appealing, and Maggie is a smart and competent heroine whose personal life is just as interesting as—if not more than—her detective work. (Mystery. 10-13)

   

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 967-1-59990-525-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A LONG WALK TO WATER

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

Salva Dut is 11 years old when war raging in the Sudan separates him from his family. To avoid the conflict, he walks for years with other refugees, seeking sanctuary and scarce food and water. Park simply yet convincingly depicts the chaos of war and an unforgiving landscape as they expose Salva to cruelties both natural and man-made. The lessons Salva remembers from his family keep him from despair during harsh times in refugee camps and enable him, as a young man, to begin a new life in America. As Salva’s story unfolds, readers also learn about another Sudanese youth, Nya, and how these two stories connect contributes to the satisfying conclusion. This story is told as fiction, but it is based on real-life experiences of one of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan. Salva and Nya’s compelling voices lift their narrative out of the “issue” of the Sudanese War, and only occasionally does the explanation of necessary context intrude in the storytelling. Salva’s heroism and the truth that water is a source of both conflict and reconciliation receive equal, crystal-clear emphasis in this heartfelt account. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-25127-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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