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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There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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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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