CLOSE CALL

Strasser (Kidnap Kids, 1998, etc.) issues an unsubtle problem-solving clinic built around a baseball teammate’s sudden change of behavior. The fifth and sixth graders who gather to play after school are used to having their games occasionally disrupted by rock-throwing high schoolers, but are taken aback when Jenny, one of their own, starts arguing obvious calls, stalking off in a huff if she doesn’t get her way, and sometimes not showing up at all. Eventually team captains Ian and Krishnan find out what’s up; because Jenny’s stepfather has entered a drug rehabilitation program and her mother has been forced to find a job, Jenny has been saddled with caring for her two-year-old brother for long stretches, a responsibility that she’s really not up to. After a bit of parental prodding, Ian invites Jenny, and her stepbrother Billy, one of the rock throwers, over for pasta and other comforts, persuades his teammates to help keep an eye on Peter, and disarms the high school punks by challenging them to a game. The last two-page chapter acts as a hasty exit, summarizing the resolutions; sports fans—and most other readers—will be disappointed by a near-total lack of action. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23124-X

Page Count: 121

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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THE COLORS OF US

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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LAUGH-ETERIA

Florian’s seventh collection of verse is also his most uneven; though the flair for clever rhyme that consistently lights up his other books, beginning with Monster Motel (1993), occasionally shows itself—“Hello, my name is Dracula/My clothing is all blackula./I drive a Cadillacula./I am a maniacula”—too many of the entries are routine limericks, putdowns, character portraits, rhymed lists that fall flat on the ear, or quick quips: “It’s hard to be anonymous/When you’re a hippopotamus.” Florian’s language and simple, thick-lined cartoons illustrations are equally ingenuous, and he sticks to tried-and-true subjects, from dinosaurs to school lunch, but the well of inspiration seems dry; revisit his hilarious Bing Bang Boing (1994) instead. (index) (Poetry. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202084-5

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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