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Fourth-grader Addison Darby fights some powerfully negative mojo in order to overcome the curse of a chair. Every kid at Brookside Elementary is terrified of the Bad Luck Chair, which has the power to curse anyone whose tush has to sit in it. From Bart Levit, who cursed it originally, to Olivia Brown, who lost her ability to dance and on to Jon, who lost his lucky powers, children at the school live in terror of The Chair. The notably unscary premise is not enough to carry this short novel to its ending. Addy and Sam, sole members of the Word Nerds, do face their challenges with energy and make new friends as they try to solve the curse-reversing riddle, but the plot is so slow-moving that it’s hard to care. Odd, dated word choices like “doody” and “wowville” serve to further distract the reader. When Addy magically figures out the clues left by a strangely absent Jon and convinces her classmates to partake in a truly unbelievable ritual to reverse the curse, readers will wonder what the fuss was about. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-525-47794-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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Using the multiple voices that made Bull Run (1995) so absorbing, Fleischman takes readers to a modern inner-city neighborhood and a different sort of battle, as bit by bit the handful of lima beans an immigrant child plants in an empty lot blossoms into a community garden, tended by a notably diverse group of local residents. It's not an easy victory: Toughened by the experience of putting her children through public school, Leona spends several days relentlessly bulling her way into government offices to get the lot's trash hauled away; others address the lack of readily available water, as well as problems with vandals and midnight dumpers; and though decades of waging peace on a small scale have made Sam an expert diplomat, he's unable to prevent racial and ethnic borders from forming. Still, the garden becomes a place where wounds heal, friendships form, and seeds of change are sown. Readers won't gain any great appreciation for the art and science of gardening from this, but they may come away understanding that people can work side by side despite vastly different motives, attitudes, skills, and cultural backgrounds. It's a worthy idea, accompanied by Pedersen's chapter-heading black-and-white portraits, providing advance information about the participants' races and, here and there, ages. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 11, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-027471-9

Page Count: 69

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read.

Tyler is the son of generations of Vermont dairy farmers.

Mari is the Mexican-born daughter of undocumented migrant laborers whose mother has vanished in a perilous border crossing. When Tyler’s father is disabled in an accident, the only way the family can afford to keep the farm is by hiring Mari’s family. As Tyler and Mari’s friendship grows, the normal tensions of middle-school boy-girl friendships are complicated by philosophical and political truths. Tyler wonders how he can be a patriot while his family breaks the law. Mari worries about her vanished mother and lives in fear that she will be separated from her American-born sisters if la migra comes. Unashamedly didactic, Alvarez’s novel effectively complicates simple equivalencies between what’s illegal and what’s wrong. Mari’s experience is harrowing, with implied atrocities and immigration raids, but equally full of good people doing the best they can. The two children find hope despite the unhappily realistic conclusions to their troubles, in a story which sees the best in humanity alongside grim realities.

Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85838-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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