THE UNFINISHED ANGEL

A small village in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region of Ticino provides the perfect background for this endearing contemporary fable, told in 44 brief, often comical chapters. When a young American named Zola comes to live in the house attached to the tower where an angel has sojourned for hundreds of years, things get lively. The angel’s narrative voice is earnest, often puzzled and frequently indignant. Full of mixed appreciation for and apprehension about human beings, it is filled with phonemic mix-ups, word coinage, inverted grammar and nonsense that soars and fizzes, giving the impression of a goodhearted and slightly zany transcendence. Helping a ragtag bunch of homeless runaways sheltering in a chicken shed becomes Zola’s project for the angel, while Zola’s father begins work on his dream of creating an international peace school. Everyone—the orphans, Signora Divino (the cranky widow next door), Zola’s father, even the incessantly barking dog—is on the way to redemption by the end. Brimful of grace and cheer; moving, funny and sweet—and begging to be read aloud. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-143095-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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