A thought-provoking tale of family struggles, schoolyard bullies, masculinity, reaching out and intolerance, jealousy and...

MY COUSIN'S KEEPER

Do you have to be your brother’s keeper?

When his weird, long-haired cousin Bon turns up in Kieran’s hometown to stay with their grandmother and attend his school, it torpedoes the 11-year-old’s hopes of becoming one of the popular crowd. The neglected son of a mentally ill mother, Bon, also 11, has spent plenty of time on his own. He escapes into drawing and writing an elaborate adventure in which “Bon the Crusader,” “Kieran the Brave” and “Julia the Fair” (another new student, living temporarily with the mother who abducted her) vanquish the forces of evil. There are certainly forces of evil about: families that are by no means as loving and supportive as Kieran’s and bullies in the schoolyard. For much of the story, narrator Kieran is not very likable. Caught up in resentment and in his efforts to find a place among the popular, bullying boys, he goes along with their actions. A cruel, unfair attack finally pushes him to do the right thing, becoming the “Kieran the Brave” Bon has imagined. This Australian import, set in a dying small town where soccer is king, stands out for its forthright depiction of dysfunctional families and its effective juxtaposition of them with a functional one.

A thought-provoking tale of family struggles, schoolyard bullies, masculinity, reaching out and intolerance, jealousy and friendship just right for middle-grade book discussions. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6279-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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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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