DARE TO BE, M.E.!

Storm clouds gather but don't stand a chance in this sunny, thematically encyclopedic follow-up to Fruit Flies, Fish & Fortune Cookies (1994). Though her friend Ben moves away just before the start of seventh grade, Mary Ellen Bobowick is delighted to learn that her bosom buddy, Justine, is returning from a year in Paris. Justine is changed, though, in several worrisome ways; in the wake of her parents' separation she has become self-deprecating, especially about her nonexistent weight problem. In a story filled with subplots and modeled behavior, LeMieux offers a primer for students entering junior high: the rotating schedule, heavy-duty homework, a class in self-esteem (``Dare To Be Different!!! Dare To Be Yourself!!!''), cafeteria food, classroom politics (Mary Ellen runs for homeroom rep), first dates, first kiss. A veritable sheaf of issues are covered: nose rings, the damage fashion photography and dolls do to a girl's body image, bullies, and vanishing rainforests. By the end, all skies are blue again- -Mary Ellen has a string of triumphs and good deeds to her credit, Justine is seeing a therapist for an eating disorder, and her parents are thinking of getting back together. The Bobowicks aren't quite the Krupniks, but they're well worth a visit, and the lessons slide down easily. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-380-97496-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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A WEEK IN THE WOODS

Playing on his customary theme that children have more on the ball than adults give them credit for, Clements (Big Al and Shrimpy, p. 951, etc.) pairs a smart, unhappy, rich kid and a small-town teacher too quick to judge on appearances. Knowing that he’ll only be finishing up the term at the local public school near his new country home before hieing off to an exclusive academy, Mark makes no special effort to fit in, just sitting in class and staring moodily out the window. This rubs veteran science teacher Bill Maxwell the wrong way, big time, so that even after Mark realizes that he’s being a snot and tries to make amends, all he gets from Mr. Maxwell is the cold shoulder. Matters come to a head during a long-anticipated class camping trip; after Maxwell catches Mark with a forbidden knife (a camp mate’s, as it turns out) and lowers the boom, Mark storms off into the woods. Unaware that Mark is a well-prepared, enthusiastic (if inexperienced) hiker, Maxwell follows carelessly, sure that the “slacker” will be waiting for rescue around the next bend—and breaks his ankle running down a slope. Reconciliation ensues once he hobbles painfully into Mark’s neatly organized camp, and the two make their way back together. This might have some appeal to fans of Gary Paulsen’s or Will Hobbs’s more catastrophic survival tales, but because Clements pauses to explain—at length—everyone’s history, motives, feelings, and mindset, it reads more like a scenario (albeit an empowering one, at least for children) than a story. Worthy—but just as Maxwell underestimates his new student, so too does Clement underestimate his readers’ ability to figure out for themselves what’s going on in each character’s life and head. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-82596-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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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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