Five seventh-grade winners of a writing competition are required to form a creative writing workshop where their diversity—which at first makes them unwilling, even hostile, collaborators—eventually draws them together as friends. For protagonist Libby, who is the granddaughter of a famous local novelist—and who has been taught at home until this year when her remarkable family of five adults has decided that it's time for her to be "socialized"—each of the others is a threat: G.G., whose bullying is paralleled by the violence in his stories; Alex, who can't "write" and goes to a special class, but who proves to be a gifted satirist; obstreperous, punk Tierney, whose hard-boiled detective stories aren't meant to be parodies; even cheerleader Wendy, who writes trite romances but whose niceness turns out to be real. As the five learn to give and accept constructive criticism, they also begin to respect each other's gifts; by the time their advisor is hospitalized, the group has become so important that they continue meeting privately, in the fabulous treehouse built by Libby's granddad. The characters here are pungent and believable, their interaction well-realized. Revealing details—Libby's extensive collections, kept in the servants' quarters of the old family mansion; the stories read at the workshop sessions—meld with a carefully paced story that comes to a climax when the others dramatically rescue G.G. from his abusive father, but that also thoughtfully explores the enriching value of diversity—and demonstrates, along the way, how to use words to reflect it. A grand, multileveled novel.

Pub Date: March 1, 1990

ISBN: 0440404983

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Positively refreshing.

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A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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