PLB 0-06-028368-8 A boy finds himself so ill-suited for his family that he believes he must have been switched at birth—a classic childhood hunch that in Weeks’s first novel, by turns drab and exaggerated, falls pretty flat. Sixth grader Guy thinks of himself as normal and feels alienated from his eccentric parents: his red-headed mother decoupages everything in sight and renders his father in ice sculpture; Guy’s father, in turn, can do disgusting things with an oyster and is called “Wuckums.” Along with his best friend, Buzz, Guy discovers among the school files that there was indeed another boy in town born the same day as he was: Bob-o. The weird and odious Bob-o has parents that seem remarkably normal to Guy, and they are left-handed and dimpled, as is he. Guy invents a class assignment that involves switching homes with Bob-o for a weekend; Guy discovers that normal isn’t much fun and Bob-o finds kindred spirits in Guy’s folks. The whole thing blows up in a melodramatic misinterpretation, as Guy figures out that there is no place like home—a foreordained ending in a novel that starts with a thin premise and grows flimsier with each page. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-028367-X

Page Count: 120

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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