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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LAUGH-ETERIA

Florian’s seventh collection of verse is also his most uneven; though the flair for clever rhyme that consistently lights up his other books, beginning with Monster Motel (1993), occasionally shows itself—“Hello, my name is Dracula/My clothing is all blackula./I drive a Cadillacula./I am a maniacula”—too many of the entries are routine limericks, putdowns, character portraits, rhymed lists that fall flat on the ear, or quick quips: “It’s hard to be anonymous/When you’re a hippopotamus.” Florian’s language and simple, thick-lined cartoons illustrations are equally ingenuous, and he sticks to tried-and-true subjects, from dinosaurs to school lunch, but the well of inspiration seems dry; revisit his hilarious Bing Bang Boing (1994) instead. (index) (Poetry. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202084-5

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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