DESTINY

At 12, Destiny Louise Capperson is the most competent member of her impoverished dysfunctional family. Her psychic-dependent mother is so sadly eccentric that when the family’s phone is disconnected, her response is “What do they expect people to do in emergencies? . . . Just hope a psychic happens to drop in right off the street?” Along with her mother, Destiny lives with her mother’s mean-spirited, disreputable boyfriend and her simply but sharply defined half-siblings in a small house bought with an insurance windfall gained when her brother’s “legs got crunched by the bad lady” in a car accident. To help make ends meet, Destiny seeks employment with Mrs. Peck, a retired teacher whose eyesight is failing but whose prodigious memory and ethical standards are blessedly intact. Stiff-backed yet courteous and respectful, Mrs. Peck introduces Destiny to the intellectually invigorating world of classical mythology and the concepts it embodies. But when she learns that Mrs. Peck may not be as perfect as she had imagined, Destiny slips up, then has to negotiate a moral crisis of her own making. Although Grove’s book has more coincidences than it can sustain and resolves too neatly, it’s full of lyrical prose, vibrant, gracefully detailed characters and a message of hope for the future. As Mrs. Peck tells Destiny, “To hope is to look yourself in the eye and realize that you’re capable of doing and being anything you really want to in this imperfect but fascinating world.” (Fiction.10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-23449-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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WHEN EAGLES FALL

Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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