AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART

THE STORY OF AMBER AND ESSIE TOLD HERE IN POEMS AND PICTURES

Amber and Essie are two loving sisters living in a city apartment with their hardworking but poor mother. In a series of unpunctuated poems, Williams (Lucky Song, 1997, etc.) creates lively vignettes that capture their relationship and their everyday lives. The girls are defined clearly in the opening lines: “Amber could write her name in script / Essie taught her / But Essie could read hard library books.” Essie takes care of Amber and comforts her when she is hungry or lonely. Amber takes the lead when they have to ask for credit at the local store. The only question Essie hates is “Where is Daddy?” The unexpected answer is that Daddy is in jail, taken from the apartment by the police for forging a check after he lost his job. The poems, illustrated by black pencil sketches, describe afternoons with babysitters; the new girl upstairs; catching sight of mother’s unhappiness when she thinks they are asleep; the occasional fights; the time Essie cut off Amber’s braids; and finally, the happy day that Daddy comes home. Two sections of full-color pencil illustrations add surprise and detail to the text. The opener, “Introducing Amber and Essie 4 Portraits,” shows the girls from front and back, giving the reader a delightfully well-rounded portrait of each. The closing section, “Amber and Essie: An Album,” adds additional action and color to some of the incidents. Poems and illustrations provide a portrait of close sisterly relationship that intimately and lovingly draws the reader into the joys and sadness of their lives. A wonderful story, brilliantly told. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029460-4

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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