RANSOM FOR A RIVER DOLPHIN

Carmenza, who lives in an Amazon Basin village in Colombia, contributes to her family's income by delivering shortwave radio messages to neighbors. Thus she learns of the pending arrival of hunters and arranges for her mother to provide their room and board. Meanwhile, the girl comes across a dolphin whose mouth has been maimed by a boat propeller, and later finds it further injured by a harpoon lodged in its fin. She and classmate Ramiro nurse it back to health with the aid of Ramiro's father, who knows dolphin ways and determines that the animal's ``spirit'' has also been wounded. Chapters about the dolphin alternate with those about Carmenza and Ramiro (with subplots concerning the illegal export of fauna and Carmenza's little brother's mysterious illness); the book closes with a dolphin birth. Kendall packs her quiet narrative with authentic details, occasionally allowing educational trappings to overwhelm the story (e.g., Carmenza's mother suddenly recites local history, while Ramiro provides an essay on a war with Peru). The dolphins are frequently anthropomorphized, but not too intrusively. Despite such shortcomings, an unusual book, and certainly a heartfelt one. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-8225-0735-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.

OUT OF THE DUST

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible—fully responsible in the eyes of the community—and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano.

Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it.

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 978-0-590-36080-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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