A histrionic but reflective story about gaining maturity and knowledge.


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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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