A histrionic but reflective story about gaining maturity and knowledge.

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GRANDMA'S SOCK DRAWER

A girl uses the key to her grandparent’s sock drawer to unlock lesson-rich adventures in this fantasy novel.

After her grandmother’s death, 13-year-old Sukey Durand travels with her father from San Diego to southeastGeorgia, where they remain for some time to prepare her late grandma’s house for sale. One day, Sukey gets a letter addressed only to her, to be opened in private. The missive is from her late grandmother, and includes what the elderly woman called “my most precious treasure”: the key to her sock drawer. Inside the drawer are three very different pairs of socks: one that’s warm and woolly; one that’s patterned with puppies; and lacy footies. Donning each pair takes Sukey on surprising voyages to three magical lands. The first is inhabited by people with either pig or mule faces; in the second are talking frogs, who are facing oppression. Finally, Sukey visits a cave of memories, where family trees grow upside down. In each location, the girl learns lessons, such as how to teach mulish and pigheaded people to get along by recognizing one another’s strengths. Meanwhile, she learns more about her grandmother and a source of family estrangement, and realizes that “Things that go wrong need to start anew.” In her debut book, Agauas mixes adventure and Christian allegory in a way that’s mildly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This is most evident in the middle section, set in the city of Mare-C in the land of Evol (“love” spelled backward). Here, a Christlike figure called Amik, a beaver, repudiates the evil Skunk Bear, reminding everyone that “all debts are covered for all those that choose to live and love in Mare-C.” The scenes are imaginative and not too heavy-handed, but sometimes the book strains for effect; Sukey takes an agonizingly long time—likely well past the point of readers’ patience—to open the letter, find the drawer, and unlock it, and her thoughts are frequently slowed by melodramatic digressions in the form of massed, one-sentence paragraphs.

A histrionic but reflective story about gaining maturity and knowledge.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73227-111-1

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Why Not Now? Children's Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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