DANGEROUS SKIES

Stubborn naãvetÇ destroys a close interracial friendship in this long, turgid story from the author of Haveli (1993), set on Virginia's Eastern Shore. After finding the floating body of a migrant worker, Buck, 12, is horrified when his best friend, Tunes, becomes a suspect. Sure that the real killer is prosperous, respected Jumbo Rawlins, ``six foot seven, every inch lean, mean, and ill-intentioned,'' Buck urges Tunes to tell her side of the story. Instead, Tunes disappears. When Buck tracks her down, he's horrified to learn from her that Rawlins has been abusing her physically and sexually. Tunes tries to tell him that a black girl's word won't carry much weight against that of a white adult, but Buck is so convinced that justice will out that he persuades her to come out of hiding. As predicted, she's arrested and tried while Rawlins remains untouched; though not convicted, Tunes moves away and drops out of Buck's life forever. In matching smart, resourceful, opaque Tunes to innocent and blindly loyal Buck, Staples creates a telling contrast, but her penchant for explaining characters, relationships, and situations rather than showing them, plus a plot that wanders like the setting's swampy waterways, slows the pace; ambiguities in Tunes's story, plus Buck's disillusioned, now-it's-five-years-later-and- life-goes-on finish, are puzzling. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-31694-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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