KIDNAP KIDS

There's nothing like a terrorist attack to bring a family back together, as two brothers and their hyper-frantic parents discover in this wild, patchy problem novel from Strasser (Hey Dad, Get a Life!, 1996, etc.). With their father off on world-spanning business trips and their mother prosecuting a high-profile trial of a group of militants dubbed the Nut Bombers, Steven and Benjy seldom see either one. After months of being escorted to school as a security precaution, and guarded at home by a succession of unappealing nannies, the boys are sick and tired of being on their own. They shovel on the guilt; when their parents finally agree to a weekend in the country, the boys are relieved but suspicious. Sure enough, Mom and Dad bring along work—so Steven and Benjy deftly handcuff them to heavy furniture when they're not paying attention, and lock their cell phones and laptops in a trunk. Enter a trio of Nut Bombers bent on revenge—and the stage is set for a night of narrow escapes. Through his narrator Steven, Strasser lays on such a thick parental guilt trip that the boy sounds more whiny than resourceful, and the events of the story are more of a series of set pieces than a single plot. Steven and Benjy's feelings, however, will be understandable to plenty of young readers, and just as close to their hearts will be the wish to—occasionally—take their own parents prisoner. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23111-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE BAD BEGINNING

The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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