This utterly fresh and winning collection of verse is in the voice of an unnamed teenager, whom readers will come to know really well through her introspective and spot-on observations. During the course of a school year in California that is divided into sections (Autumn, Winter, Spring), she welcomes back her best friend Leslie and then has a fight with her, plays Mozart duets on her violin with Yen-Mei, and learns about kissing with Carlo. She is a writer, and she works at it, and she’s dazzled when her teacher, in his honey-sweet Tennessee accent, suggests she’s good enough to be published in “Faan Powms.” She tries out for drama club, hangs out with her Great Aunt Ida, and ruefully examines her pull-and-tug relationship with an older sister. Employing many forms of verse, some rhymed, some not, she even writes a sonnet; all of them are accessible and exquisitely crafted. “Rehearsal” says in its entirety: “This music is so / amazing, it builds a nest / of tears in my throat.” She notes wryly when an annoying boy stops hanging around her “And lately I have missed / being annoyed.” Clayton’s (Three Rotten Eggs, p. 339, etc.) illustrations, a mix of collage and sketches, hint at each subject often in amusing or wry corollaries. The narrator says a great deal about writing: “I want to / make something / beautiful. / Peaches. / If I could / make peaches—grow them / from my pen . . . ” She gets her wish. (author’s note) (Poetry. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-80158-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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PLB 0-06-027940-0 Dakos’s collection of 23 poems from the perspective of items found at school satisfies the I Can Read requirements of simplicity and word repetition, but may not lure beginning readers back for a second time. The material is uninspiring: The school’s front door says, “Keep me shut,/I have the flu,/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Keep me shut,/I have the flu.” A book sings “Happy Birthday” to a ruler, then sings “Happy Unbirthday” when the ruler says that it is not its birthday. Also appearing are a couple of clever items—one on a kidnapped pencil and another on a comb pulling hazardous duty—along with some typographic elements that amiably convey the idea that words are malleable; Reed’s illustrations possess geniality and character, making some inanimate objects very personable. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-027939-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Suspenseful, fast-paced, and brief enough to engage even reluctant readers.


Freeman’s middle-grade debut starts with a wallop and carries on from there.

Twelve-year-old Madeleine Albright Harrison is inadvertently left behind when her whole region is abruptly evacuated in the night. Although there had been hints of unrest, she has no real idea why everyone left or when—perhaps if—they’ll ever come back. At first, there’s still electricity and running water, but as days turn into weeks and then months, utilities fail, and Madeleine comes to realize that she’s truly on her own. A Colorado winter will be coming soon enough. After rescuing a neighbor’s dog, her only companion, she becomes increasingly sophisticated in her survival efforts, collecting food and water, learning how to light a fire in her father’s woodstove and, bicycle helmet secured in place, teaching herself to drive a car. Not everything works. At one point she encounters but evades a vicious group of looters. Later she survives both a tornado and a wildfire that sweeps through her neighborhood. But it’s loneliness that becomes her greatest enemy and books from the local library that ultimately sustain her. Madeleine relates her own riveting, immersive story in believable detail, her increasingly sophisticated thoughts, as years pass, sweeping down spare pages in thin lines of verse in this Hatchet for a new age. Characters default to White.

Suspenseful, fast-paced, and brief enough to engage even reluctant readers. (Verse novel. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6756-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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