CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC

Eleven-year-old Justine’s life is both amusing and somber as she negotiates religion, family, and bereavement. Having been ridiculed at home for proposing that they keep kosher, Justine decides to give up Judaism for Lent and become a Catholic. Secretly, in her closet, she confesses to Father Ted (a teddy bear) and takes Communion (matzo and grape juice). On the day she attends Mass with her best friend’s idealized family, Justine’s beloved Bubbe has a crippling stroke. Wracked with guilt, Justine assumes it’s a punishment from God. Unable to care for herself, Bubbe moves in (wonderful) but soon dies, devastating Justine. Bubbe’s always given Justine the unconditional love that the rest of their disapproving, teasing family withholds. Struggling to find the meaning of religion (either one) and frustrated that her family won’t take her seriously, Justine seeks out a priest (on whom she instantly has a crush) and a rabbi (but not the family’s). Both help, as does her family—finally. Funny and tearful. (Yiddish/Hebrew glossary) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-525-47365-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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Warm, delicious and filling.

PIE

What do you get when you take some scrumptious pie recipes, stir in a mix-up of a mystery involving an overweight cat and a legacy, then add a sly satirical nod to the Newbery Medal? This irresistible confection.  

In 1955, 10-year-old Alice’s beloved Aunt Polly, the peerless “Pie Queen of Ipswitch,” who has always given away the extraordinary products of her oven simply because it makes her happy, dies. She bequeaths her incomparable piecrust recipe to Lardo, her cat—or does she?—and leaves Lardo to Alice. Thus the stage is set for a rich, layered and funny tale about friendship, family relationships and doing what’s right. The characters are wonderfully drawn. While doing her best to carry on Aunt Polly’s legacy, trying to figure out how to wrest the secret from the cat, dealing with a nefarious woman poking around town and learning about the renowned “Blueberry Medal,” which everyone in town is trying to win, Alice draws closer to her mom, a resolution Aunt Polly would have cherished. Alice and her family eventually discover the solution to the mystery in a plot twist that is both comical and plausible. An epilogue, set in 1995, is deeply poignant and gratifying. In addition to the beautifully wrought story, readers will savor and want to attempt the 14 recipes, each of which precedes a chapter.

Warm, delicious and filling.   (recipes, pie credits) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-27011-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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