THERE'S A DEAD PERSON FOLLOWING MY SISTER AROUND

Vande Velde (Never Trust a Dead Man, p. 458, etc.) combines a ghost story with slave history for a comic middle-grade novel. Fifth-grader Ted has an obnoxious teenage brother, Zach, and a cute five-year-old sister, Vicki, who seems to attract ghosts. Her announcement that she has a new invisible friend, Marella, is followed by another pronouncement, that Vicki is afraid of a “bad lady” who is also invisible, but who comes through the walls. Ted has a series of vivid nightmares about corpses trying to drown him; when his school project on Luxembourg is wrecked by apparently unseen hands, he’s convinced the house is haunted and begins digging for clues. Ted learns his house once sheltered runaway slaves, and identifies the ghosts as mother and child fugitives who drowned in an old section of the canal behind the house. A description of the real-life mother in an old diary indicates that she was a good person—has she turned nasty in the afterlife? In a surprising twist, it is Marella who must fulfill her sinister purpose and possess Vicki. Ted, a witty narrator on the subject of the typical sibling behavior that is spiked into the plot, must submit to possession himself, in a fast-paced story that mixes scares and history for some can’t-put-it-down fun. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202100-0

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE COLORS OF US

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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TASTY BABY BELLY BUTTONS

PLB 0-679-99369-X Inspired by local versions of a popular Japanese folktale, Sierra (Antarctic Antics, 1998, etc.) recasts a yarn that usually stars Momotaro, or “Peach Boy,” with a female lead. When giant, ogre-like oni take away all the village’s babies to make snacks of their tasty navels, little Uriko-hime is left behind; she was born from a melon, and so has no belly button. Gathering up a small band of animal companions along the way, Uriko tricks the monsters into walloping themselves with clubs, and rescues the children, leaving delicious millet dumplings behind in consolation. Clad in a flowing, watermelon-colored kimono, Uriko makes a doughty heroine, equally skilled in cookery and swordplay; So’s art has a traditional look, with theatrically gesturing figures, busy crowd scenes, and energetic brushwork. A vigorously told comic adventure. (Picture book/folklore. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-89369-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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