STORIES FROM WHERE WE LIVE

THE GULF COAST

A century ago, collections of intelligent anthologies for children graced bookshelves, encompassing titles like The World and Its People and The Outdoor Book. This fourth installment of the similarly minded literary series mapping the eco-regions of the US treats the Gulf Coast. All edited by St. Antoine, each seeks to give its readers a true impression of its proscribed region through memoirs, fiction, poetry, and finally exposition. It doesn’t fail, even if some authors’ connections with the Gulf Coast at times are a bit of a stretch, like equating a Po Boy with a Hero sandwich. No matter, for much of the collection is lively and evocative. Audubon and John Muir, with slightly archaic language, line up here with contemporary, earnest-sounding lesser-knowns. The poetry is uneven and sometimes clearly serving the political topic, like “Migration Midpoint,” making the excellent “Eulogy for a Hermit Crab” and “My Mother Returns to Calaboz” stand out the better. The Kathy Starr selection, “The Soul of Southern Cooking” is out of place here because a Gulf Coaster would never accept writing from the Delta Country as appropriately proximate, no matter what boundaries the scientists define. Better choices would have been writing by Jessica Harris or even memories culled from Leah Chase’s cookbook. But two of the best stories, “Fig Picking,” and “Mosquito Blues,” are perfectly pitched for this anthology, although the authors are also technically not Gulf Coasters. The canny inclusion of fables of mythic proportions by the late J.J. Reneaux and the great Zora Neale Hurston add the right atmosphere and spice. So mixed with the obligatory manatee and Key Deer stories, newcomers to the Gulf Coast will materially experience the poignant diversity of this dwindling coast of marshes, beaches, and bayous as if they were walking its circumference, no mean editorial feat. Locals will glow at the inclusion of “Buried Christmas Tree,” concerning what is becoming a necessary Gulf Coast custom: the recycling of Christmas trees to create new barrier islands. An extensive essay on the ecological makeup, habitats, plants, and animals wraps it all up. (bibliography, author’s notes, list of parks and preserves, map, not seen) (Anthology. 12+)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-57131-636-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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An enviable hero and appealing wish fulfillment that’s spiced with teen-friendship drama.

THE ZEE FILES

When her family moves to London, an American teen adjusts to a new school in this middle-grade novel.

Previously, 12-year-old Mackenzie Blue Carmichael, called Zee, detailed her seventh grade escapades in the five-volume Mackenzie Blue series. Now a year older and in the eighth grade, the red-haired, blue-eyed, olive-skinned Zee faces a major life change because her father’s job is taking the family to London from Los Angeles. Besides leaving behind sunny skies for London fog, Zee must say goodbye to Chloe Lawrence-Johnson, her best friend from Brookdale Academy. Another big change is that Zee will be attending a boarding school, The Hollows Creative Arts Academy, in the Cotswolds. That’s a bit intimidating, but the school has some huge advantages, especially its focus on the arts. She can concentrate on her singing and songwriting while studying academic subjects. Plus, her Brookdale friend Ally Stern now lives in Paris, just two hours away. Despite her anxieties, Zee makes several friends quickly. Unexpectedly, she is taken into the charmed circle of Izzy Matthews, a popular YouTuber, and hits it off with the school’s hottest ninth grade boy, the posh Archibald “Archie” Saint John the Fourth, a fellow songwriter. But hurdles remain, such as staying in touch with Chloe across time zones. Ally, too, has been mysteriously distant, canceling a planned Paris rendezvous for unclear reasons. Wells (now writing with Smith) continues the Mackenzie Blue series under a new umbrella title. Transplanting Zee to England allows for a fresh array of challenges and adventures, and American readers will likely enjoy learning about cultural differences with Britain. (Some references are off target; for example, the name St. John isn’t spelled “Saint John.”) Zee has a lively voice that makes her sound like a friend any teen would like to have, although few readers will be able to relate to the characters’ wealthy lives. Teens own expensive, high-status items like Alexander McQueen sneakers, and their school is so far out of reach for most that it might as well be Hogwarts. These elements are certainly entertaining as an aspirational fantasy, though Zee’s troubles seem lightweight indeed among so much privilege. The fast-paced plot ends rather abruptly just as it feels as if Zee’s story is really getting started; the tale continues in Book 2. Jamison supplies monochrome illustrations that deftly convey the teens’ expressive emotions.

An enviable hero and appealing wish fulfillment that’s spiced with teen-friendship drama.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 167

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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BETWEEN TWO FIRES

BLACK SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR

Brought together in what novelist Hansen (Which Way Freedom?, 1986) calls a ``great experiment,'' black troops in the Civil War faced not only enemy armies but their own side's vicious racism while proving their ability. They had already fought in every previous American war, but never in permanent units; faced with a manpower shortage, Lincoln overcame his reluctance and allowed black companies to form—though some had to assemble and march in secret to avoid civilian riots. Quoting frequently from contemporary sources, Hansen describes their recruitment, their struggle for proper pay, supplies, and training, and their heroic performance in dozens of actions. She contends that, for them, the war had no complex causes: first, last and always, it was a crusade against slavery. Her methodical, well-documented study is ranges wider than Cox's Undying Glory (about the Massachusetts 54th Regiment). Murky b&w photos and reproductions; notes; substantial bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-531-11151-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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