HANDBOOK FOR BOYS

In a self-help treatise in the guise of a novel, Myers’s (Bad Boy, 2001, etc.) passion and concern for adolescent boys infuses the material and gives it a heartfelt urgency. He’s eager to teach youngsters how to make the right decisions so that they can avoid the pitfalls of modern life and become productive members of society. With that aim in mind, he gives his readers three rules for achievement: “Find out what you mean by success . . . find out what work is needed to get there . . . go on and do the work.” The story itself is slight: after being arrested for injuring a classmate in a schoolyard fight, an unexceptional child named Jimmy must work for an upright elder, a right-thinking street-corner philosophizer, and the owner of a local mecca—a barbershop in Harlem. Everyone who comes into Duke’s barbershop relates a story of victimhood or success—fodder for discussion and a moral. At first, Jimmy finds Duke and his endless life lessons insufferable—and it must be said that the lack of dramatic tension and structure of personal story followed by analysis does grow tedious—but over time the man’s genuine decency (and the rightness of his position) makes its mark. Finally, Jimmy sees firsthand how a poorly thought-out choice can have a catastrophic impact on a person’s future, and begins to make better judgments in his own life. Although compositionally flawed, this has such important things to say to adolescent boys that it deserves a wide audience. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029146-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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