THE INVISIBLE RULES OF THE ZOË LAMA

Children with their own insightful rules on life have become a popular vehicle for poignant themes. Zoë Lama (think Dalai Lama) is a pint-size seventh-grader with unwritten rules of advice for friends and classmates. After defusing a bully situation on the playground, Zoë Monday Costello gains such respect and clout that her small stature does not prevent her from having an overly inflated view of her opinions. Bestowing her guidance for things like picture-day clothing and boyfriend behavior can be a bit overbearing at times. Written in a first-person know-it-all voice, a larger bold type for pointed emphasis, a smattering of IM language and a sprinkling of pen-and-ink drawings, this deals with typical fare for the fatherless Zoë. A full plate of “responsibilities,” from chairing the school’s dance committee, to mentoring new student Maisie, to keeping Grandma out of assisted living while scheming to have Mom marry the math teacher, all play against the everyday middle-school drama. When plans and guidance backfire, Zoë acquiesces to unwritten rule #10. Just when everyone is weary of Zoë’s self-proclaimed knowledge, Cohen gets to the point and reverses her protagonist’s attitude, concluding with the message, “Sometimes the best way to be a friend is to just let people be themselves.” Sitcom style for familiar themes. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-525-47810-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.

OUT OF THE DUST

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible—fully responsible in the eyes of the community—and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano.

Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it.

The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 978-0-590-36080-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING

Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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