THE CANYON

The San Diego community is horrified when their local television station announces that San Ramon Canyon, the place where they hike and enjoy local flora and fauna, is slated to be leveled for 95 luxury homes. Eleven-year-old Zach is the first to react, and with his family’s, neighborhood’s, and schoolmates’ support, he fights back with petitions and pleas presented to the disinterested local government. Zach uses his skill in photography to enhance a newspaper and television campaign, but succumbs to his best friend’s intimidation to use vandalism to slow the corporation’s efforts to get started on their lucrative project. Zach’s photography reveals that an endangered species lives on canyon property, which helps the “Save the Canyon” effort, but his acts of vandalism prey upon his mind until he comes up with an idea to give his precious baseball-card collection in partial payment for his mistake, sparking an advertising campaign on the Internet to persuade the corporation to trade its interest in the Canyon for massive numbers of nationally contributed baseball cards. Zach’s effort is heartwarming, but Cole’s text is weak due to frequent awkward phrasing, passive voice, and annoying clichés, and is so repetitious as to drag the plot to a standstill. Cole’s purposeful repetition allows everyone to reveal themselves, but this approach to introducing and building character fails, because her ultimate result is shallow. Though tedious, the plot feels real, until the conclusion abruptly ends with a deus ex machina: the grandfatherly owner of the Canyon property, hitherto unmentioned, pops up in the last chapter, forgives the vandalism, saves the canyon, and commits a large sum to making the canyon a dream come true for the whole community. On par with a bad made-for-television movie. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-17496-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THE RIGHT-UNDER CLUB

Summertime finds a strange combination of five middle-schoolers high up in a leafy tree house in their newly formed support group, the “R.U. Club,” where the secret is what “R.U.” means and what they do in the club. They could not be more unlike one another and yet each deeply understands what it is like to live in a new family because of death or divorce: They feel like leftovers, “even though we are right under their noses.” Each one takes a turn to describe her concern or worry. Anonymously, in written suggestions and then in group brainstorming sessions, they discuss solutions. Then as the girls put their trust in collective wisdom and thoughtfully apply effort and action through careful heartfelt adherence to club rules, camaraderie develops. Mounting interest in the characters and their adjustments to family life builds to a too-sweet conclusion, which could be redressed in a sequel, yet five genuine multifaceted characters together with their families make a large cast of characters. which Deriso handles adeptly. An interesting group that begs for a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73334-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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