LUNCH-BOX DREAM

A laudable attempt to address an unfortunately still-timely subject, this novel feels more like a Modernist experiment than...

In 1959 on a Civil War battleground tour, a white northern boy has his own prejudices shaken when he sees Jim Crow in action in a Joycean exploration that seems uncertain of its audience.

Bobby (of indeterminate age), his Civil War–obsessed older brother, Ricky, and their mother take the scenic route on the way to deliver the boys’ grandmother and her car to her home in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, 9-year-old African-American Jacob leaves his sister and her husband in Atlanta to visit relatives in small-town Dalton, Ga., and he's a little unclear about proper behavior around whites. When a combination of stress over marital problems and unnecessary, abject racial terror causes Bobby’s mother to total the car in Atlanta, they send Grandma south and, much to Bobby’s mortification, book a bus home. Bobby finds himself on the same bus with Jacob’s family on an emergency trip to find the boy, who’s gone missing, and Bobby’s worldview takes an epiphanic hit. The narrative shifts from Bobby's perspective in a focused, third-person voice to the first-person accounts of a number of secondary characters. These voices, particularly those of the African-Americans, are mostly indistinct, their accounts seesawing from elliptical to expository. This, together with historical references that will likely slip past children and sometimes tortured syntax, derails prolific series fantasist Abbott’s (The Secrets of Droon) attempt at an autobiographical historical novel.

A laudable attempt to address an unfortunately still-timely subject, this novel feels more like a Modernist experiment than a children's book. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-34673-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

FINDING MIGHTY

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

LAUGH WITH THE MOON

Ultimately, Burg’s lyrical prose will make readers think about the common ground among peoples, despite inevitable...

Melding the colors of heartache and loss with painterly strokes, Burg creates a vivid work of art about a girl grieving for her recently deceased mother against a Third World backdrop.

Clare is not speaking to her father. She has vowed never to speak to him again. Which could be tough, since the pair just touched down in Malawi. There, Clare finds herself struck by the contrast between American wealth and the relatively bare-bones existence of her new friends. Drowning in mourning and enraged at the emptiness of grief, Clare is a hurricane of early-adolescent emotions. Her anger toward her father crackles like lightning in the treetops. She finds purpose, though, in teaching English to the younger children, which leads her out of grief. Burg’s imagery shimmers. “The girl talks to her mother in a language that sounds like fireworks, full of bursts and pops. She holds her hand over her mouth giggling.... She probably has so many minutes with her mother, she can’t even count them.” Her realization of the setting and appreciation for the Malawian people are so successful that they compensate for Clare's wallowing, which sometimes feels contrived.

Ultimately, Burg’s lyrical prose will make readers think about the common ground among peoples, despite inevitable disparities. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73471-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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