WILLIWAW!

PLB 0-679-99030-5 Bodett (for adults, The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, 1996, etc.) tacks toward a younger audience with this tale of two siblings who prove they’re not ready to be on their own. With her fisherman father gone for yet another long stretch, September, and her brother, Ivan, keep up with chores and school lessons in their isolated Alaska cabin; then Ivan attempts to jury-rig a power connection for his video game, and shorts out both radios. Despite their father’s express prohibition, the two boat for town, 14 miles across the bay, to get the radios fixed. That first trip becomes a series after September and Ivan discover that the pleasures of the local french fries, chocolate shakes, and human contact outweigh the guilt of breaking promises. Ensuing complications and several poor decisions ultimately put them out in the bay when a “williwaw,” a sudden storm, howls in. It’s a wild, exciting climax, but the author reaches it only after a leisurely exploration of the push-pull relationship between two lonely children on the edge of adolescence. Reader-interest in these capable but not yet self-reliant characters may flicker in the face of Bodett’s overwritten prose and his tendency to harp on certain themes, such as Ivan’s video game addiction. Still, with the thrilling finish and singular setting, this is a promising effort. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-89030-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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DRAWING LESSONS

A teenager suffers through her parents’ separation in this smoothly stylized, if conventional, debut. Aurora’s world comes crashing down when she catches her artist father nuzzling a model. Rory, a talented artist herself, furiously burns her sketchbook; suddenly he’s gone, leaving Rory and her mother wallowing in teary guilt, sending back a letter with lines that infuriate: “one day you’ll understand,” and “someday, when you’re older . . . “ Rory stops all painting and drawing, and curls up around the hurt, stonewalling even her best friend, Nicky. Rory’s almost continual awareness of light and color gives her a convincing artist’s voice, and Mack sets her back on her feet in the end, with the help of time, Nicky’s loyalty, and a startling gift from her father: her charred sketchbook, rescued and repaired both as a sign of his love, and to remind her to believe in herself. Psychological insight here is but skin deep, and the characters play it pretty close to type, but readers may be affected by the story’s overall emotional intensity. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-11202-8

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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GOOD NIGHT, MAMAN

Aimed at readers who have already encountered Anne Frank, this riveting historical novel from Mazer (Missing Pieces, 1995, etc.) is based on a little-known chapter of WWII history. Karin Levi’s story begins in a tiny attic room in Paris in the 1940s, where she is hidden away with her brother, Marc, and their mother, practicing the art of quiet. German soldiers are conducting house-to-house searches, rounding up Jews, and the small family is soon on the run, depending on strangers for scraps of food and shelter. When Maman falls ill, Karin and Marc head for Naples without her; the children board the Henry Gibbons, a ship full of European refugees bound for Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. Upon their arrival in America, their story turns from one of flight and danger to the happiness and sorrow associated with adjusting to a new language, customs, and schooling, and making new friends. Although it is a shock to Karin, it comes as no surprise to readers when Marc reveals that Maman is dead. Mazer skillfully paints Karin as brave and independent, yet depicts her devotion to Maman throughout, writing unsent letters and never losing sight of her belief that one day they will be reunited. Rather than relying on events and facts of the war and its atrocities to create sympathy, the author paints her central character’s thoughts and feelings, her moments of weakness and her strength, so that the story is stirringly understated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201468-3

Page Count: 189

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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