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BETTER NATE THAN EVER

Bravo, Nate! (Fiction. 8-13)

A story of Broadway dreams tailor-made for the younger side of the Glee audience.

Jankburg, Penn., has always been too small-town for 13-year-old Nate Foster’s Broadway-sized dreams. Jocks and God rule in the Foster house, which is good news for Anthony, Nate’s older brother, and bad news for a boy with a soft spot for jazz hands and show tunes. Thankfully, Nate’s best friend, Libby, shares his love of the Great White Way. When Libby learns of an upcoming audition for a Broadway-musical version of E.T., it’s too good an opportunity to pass up. With Libby as his cover, the two hatch a plan that will have Nate to New York and back with the role of Elliott firmly in hand before anyone even knows he’s gone missing. Alas, things rarely go according to plan. Nate is a quirky and endearing leading man from the start, and anyone who has ever felt out of place will easily identify with him. It’s a joy to watch him fall head over heels for a city that couldn’t care less about him—in the best possible way. Unfortunately, the cartoonish cover art and a predominantly lighthearted beginning may mislead some readers. Federle’s debut addresses—deftly—big and solemn issues in the second half of the novel, particularly with regard to family, sexuality and religion.

Bravo, Nate! (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4689-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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HOUSE ARREST

Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility.

A boy works desperately to keep his sick little brother safe.

Twelve-year-old Timothy has a probation officer, a court-appointed psychologist, and a yearlong sentence of house arrest. He also has a 9-month-old brother who breathes through a trach tube that frequently clogs. Heavy oxygen tanks and a suction machine as loud as a jackhammer are their everyday equipment. Timothy’s crime: charging $1,445 on a stolen credit card for a month of baby Levi’s medicine, which his mother can’t afford, especially since his father left. The text shows illness, poverty, and hunger to be awful but barely acknowledges the role of, for example, weak health insurance, odd considering the nature of Timothy’s crime. The family has nursing help but not 24/7; the real house arrest in Timothy’s life isn’t a legal pronouncement, it’s the need to keep Levi breathing. Sometimes Timothy’s the only person home to do so. His court sentence requires keeping a journal; the premise that Holt’s straightforward free-verse poems are Timothy’s writing works well enough, though sometimes the verses read like immediate thoughts rather than post-event reflection. A sudden crisis at the climax forces Timothy into criminal action to save Levi’s life, but literally saving his brother from death doesn’t erase the whiff of textual indictment for lawbreaking. Even Mom equivocates, which readers may find grievously unjust.

Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility. (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3477-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR

Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and...

Dies Drear? Ohio abolitionist, keeper of a key station on the Underground Railroad, bearer of a hypercharged name that is not even noted as odd. Which is odd: everything else has an elaborate explanation.

Unlike Zeely, Miss Hamilton's haunting first, this creates mystery only to reveal sleight-of-hand, creates a character who's larger than life only to reveal his double. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Small is fascinated, and afraid, of the huge, uncharted house his father, a specialist in Negro Civil War history, has purposefully rented. A strange pair of children, tiny Pesty and husky Mac Darrow, seem to tease him; old bearded Pluto, long-time caretaker and local legend, seems bent on scaring the Smalls away. But how can a lame old man run fast enough to catch Thomas from behind? what do the triangles affixed to their doors signify? who spread a sticky paste of foodstuffs over the kitchen? Pluto, accosted, disappears. . . into a cavern that was Dies Drear's treasure house of decorative art, his solace for the sequestered slaves. But Pluto is not, despite his nickname, the devil; neither is he alone; his actor-son has returned to help him stave off the greedy Darrows and the Smalls, if they should also be hostile to the house, the treasure, the tradition. Pluto as keeper of the flame would be more convincing without his, and his son's, histrionics, and without Pesty as a prodigy cherubim. There are some sharp observations of, and on, the Negro church historically and presently, and an aborted ideological debate regarding use of the Negro heritage.

Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and figuratively), the story becomes a charade. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1968

ISBN: 1416914056

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1968

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