A well-meaning novel that aims high but misses.

KIKI AND JACQUES

Soccer becomes a cultural bridge for a Franco-American boy and a newly arrived Somali family in a Maine mill town.

Jacques Gagnon and his father have lived with Jacques’ grandmother since his mother died, his father sinking into alcohol-fueled depression while Grandmère Jeannette supports the family. Middle schooler Jacques hopes to be captain of the soccer team, but taciturn newcomer Mohamed might challenge him. Mohamed may be unfriendly, but his little sister, Kiki, has got a sparkling smile, and soon she and Jacques enjoy a tentative friendship. Ross tackles a lot here. In addition to Jacques’ family and school situations, he must cope with neighborhood petty crook Duane, who seeks to enlist Jacques. Jacques is as earnest as the story he stars in, manfully acknowledging Mohamed’s superior skills and holding out the hand of friendship to Kiki even as he tries to resist Duane. A violent confrontation forces Jacques to make a hard choice, but that it will be the right one is never really in doubt. The story is too slim to handle both its characters and its issues. Jacques’ many classmates and teammates are hard to distinguish. Ross deserves praise for looking at the many everyday difficulties children must face, but she doesn’t give herself time to develop them with nuance. Disappointingly, the vigor and distinctiveness of Jacques’ Franco-American culture is flattened, coming across as generically French.

A well-meaning novel that aims high but misses. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3427-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Did you like this book?

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

more