THE NIGHT THE HEADS CAME

A teenager discovers that his own memories can't be trusted, in another nightmarish tale of alien intrigue from the author of Interstellar Pig (1984) and the more recent Dangerous Wishes (1995). His best friend, Tim, has disappeared, but all Leo can offer police is a wild tale of being abducted by little green men in a futuristic spaceship. The very banality of this "memory" rouses Leo's suspicions, and the plot thickens when Tim shows up two days later—older and bearing a set of disturbing drawings that, he claims, must not fall into the hands of "The Others." Sleator tells all as it happens, so that readers learn most of what's going on before Leo does; The Others, smog-loving shape-shifters bent on devastating the environment, are being chased by "the heads," an alien race of kidnappers. Both tinker with Leo's mind, though the effects prove to be only temporary. The author uses his considerable descriptive skills to make the members of both camps gut-wrenchingly repulsive; although the aliens' schemes are too confusing to follow easily, the author's many fans and readers who like their stories served up with mind-controlled zombies, chases, captures, twists, levitation, tricks, weird science, and horrible monsters with disgusting table manners brandishing oversized syringes will find plenty here to please. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-45463-2

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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