An affecting work of juvenile fiction featuring memorable, sympathetic canine characters.

MISHA THE BRAVE

In this novel for older grade-school readers, a runaway abused dog joins a group of other rescue animals and finds both courage and her calling.

Bella (Goodbye, Poonjab, 2018) begins her story with a harsh flashback, as Misha, a little pit bull mix, remembers the cruelty of her former owner; she later ended up on the scary city streets “with nowhere to go” and “no family to love her.” Now Misha is sharing a car ride with Butchy, another rescued dog, to their new home in the country. The journey sparks a second memory for Misha—one of loneliness, terror, near-starvation, and injury, before a garbage truck driver took her to a shelter and a veterinarian’s care. (Bella doesn’t sugarcoat why some dogs end up in shelters; Butchy’s owners, for instance, were killed by a drunk driver.) Misha and Butchy join an eccentric group of other rescues-turned-therapy dogs, led by Tank, a canine Iraq War veteran with the personality of a drill sergeant; little Maltese Gabriella; and Coco, a former circus dog. The dogs’ caretaker, disabled ex-soldier Tommy, tells them that their “special duty” is to fight “depression with joy…and loneliness with love.” As Misha wrestles with fear and a lack of confidence, Bella invites readers’ empathy for the other dogs by giving them their own backstories. The author touchingly handles Misha’s realization that she’s worthy of receiving and giving love. Bella’s pleasant, full-color illustrations punctuate the text, adding homely charm. She also adds unexpected elements to the story, such as Misha recognizing Tank’s vulnerability during a crisis. Bella’s use of dialogue, however, is a bit confusing. The dogs speak to one another and to humans, initiating speech and responding to it. However, it’s unclear, as written, if the people and animals are literally conversing or if their communication is merely meant to represent a sense of mutual understanding. 

An affecting work of juvenile fiction featuring memorable, sympathetic canine characters.

Pub Date: May 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945463-31-0

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Vazdoo, LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2018

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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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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