SPYHOLE SECRETS

Voyeurism becomes a route to healing for a girl overwhelmed with grief. Eleven-year-old Hallie’s life has been turned upside-down since her father was killed in a car accident and her mother has had to relocate to a dingy old apartment building in a city far from where Hallie grew up. Resentful toward her mother and unwilling to make friends in her new school, she finds respite from her misery by peeking out through a crack in a boarded-up attic window into an apartment in the building right next door. There she sees a beautiful teenage girl, her younger brother, and their perpetually angry father—does he pose a threat to his children? At first she just makes up stories about them, and then, when she makes friends with the little boy at the library, she involves herself actively in her fantasies about them. Very few writers can do atmosphere better than Snyder (Gib and the Gray Ghost, 2000, etc.), and the scenes of Hallie up in the stifling attic waiting breathlessly for the drama next door to unfold are highly effective. Somewhat less effective, but absorbing nevertheless, are Hallie’s detective efforts to discover just what is going on with that unhappy family. The answer is a letdown to Hallie (and to the reader), but without being aware of it, she has let her active grieving go in favor of her interest in the living—which is, of course, the burden of the story. For all its obviousness, it is a deftly told story with sympathetic characters, from one of the real veterans in the field. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 12, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32764-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THE RIGHT-UNDER CLUB

Summertime finds a strange combination of five middle-schoolers high up in a leafy tree house in their newly formed support group, the “R.U. Club,” where the secret is what “R.U.” means and what they do in the club. They could not be more unlike one another and yet each deeply understands what it is like to live in a new family because of death or divorce: They feel like leftovers, “even though we are right under their noses.” Each one takes a turn to describe her concern or worry. Anonymously, in written suggestions and then in group brainstorming sessions, they discuss solutions. Then as the girls put their trust in collective wisdom and thoughtfully apply effort and action through careful heartfelt adherence to club rules, camaraderie develops. Mounting interest in the characters and their adjustments to family life builds to a too-sweet conclusion, which could be redressed in a sequel, yet five genuine multifaceted characters together with their families make a large cast of characters. which Deriso handles adeptly. An interesting group that begs for a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73334-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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