Subtle and thought-provoking, the novel is entertaining and heartfelt as well as a gentle introduction to the world of...

BRIGHTWOOD

An intriguing mix of fantasy, mystery, and mental illness.

Home alone at Brightwood Hall, 11-year-old Daisy worries about her missing mother with each passing day. Her unease grows when a stranger arrives—a man who seems to want Brightwood all to himself. Despite her naiveté, readers will connect with Daisy and her dilemma. Bound to her home by agoraphobia and a sense of duty to protect Brightwood, Daisy seeks helps from the black-and-white specter of a girl named Frank. Brilliantly conceived by Unsworth, Frank is both a figment of Daisy’s imagination and the embodiment of Daisy’s cognitive development and character growth. Frank knows what Daisy knows and nothing more, but she forces Daisy to confront the truth about her situation. Brightwood seems like a magical place filled with wonder, animate objects, and talking animals, but as Daisy battles her fears and fights back against the man who wants Brightwood, she slowly comes to terms with the possibility that Brightwood is a place built on unresolved grief and mental illness. The book’s compassionate handling of sensitive subject matter is a trade-off for its tidy, uncomplicated ending, which doesn’t allow readers to see the healing process between two of the book’s major characters. Daisy is never described beyond her black hair, adding further ambiguity to the text.

Subtle and thought-provoking, the novel is entertaining and heartfelt as well as a gentle introduction to the world of mental illness. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-330-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling.

A WISH IN THE DARK

A fugitive from prison must evade his pursuer, the prison warden’s daughter, while potentially joining a revolution.

Pong has lived his whole life in Namwon Prison until a chance escape leaves him free in the city of Chattana. Pong quickly finds that freedom does not come so easily: Since the Great Fire, Chattana is under the strict control of the Governor, who creates the magical lights that run the city and that are the only lights allowed. Marked as a prisoner, Pong has nowhere to turn. Worse, the prison warden’s daughter Nok is on his trail, intent on proving both her worth and that of her family with his capture. Meanwhile, larger forces in Chattana are stirring, as not everyone is happy with the Governor’s rule. Set in a fantasy analogue of Thailand, all characters are presumed Thai, and Thai life and culture permeate the story in everything from the mangoes Pong eats in prison to the monks he meets beyond the prison’s walls. It’s also a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Soontornvat has maintained the themes of the original while making the plot and the characters utterly her own. Pong’s and Nok’s narratives are drawn together by common threads of family, loyalty, and a quest to define right and wrong, twining to create a single, satisfying tale.

A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0494-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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