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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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.


In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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