THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

A brilliantly crafted, shocking account, narrated by a teenager, of her mother's chronic incompetence and her own sexual abuse; it will slice readers to the bone less for its tragic details than for the casual, ingenuous tone in which they are revealed. In an indignant response to a social worker's unflattering report, Linda, 13, describes how, after the death of her father, she cared for first one, and then two, brothers as her mother took up with a succession of men, abandoned her for months to a senile widower, and found a job at last, working for a married businessman, Jack Green, who ultimately seduced Linda. Rejecting the social worker's contention that she was raped, Linda claims to have felt only mild impatience with Green the first time, and her childish pleasure at his gifts and toys is clear. She admits to no strong feelings even after Green is murdered, although her sometimes violent actions contradict her reasonable tone; hints that some of her ``facts'' may be imaginary only deepen the contrast. Readers may admire Linda for maintaining even an illusion of control, but will also see that she has inherited her mother's bad judgment, and that neither her story nor her promises can be trusted—a recipe for a troubled future. A raw, powerful character study of someone trying to construct a particular version of reality, and failing, because the ``facts'' tell a different story. Cole shows real literary chops in a book whose aesthetic merits outrun, by far, the ethics police. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1997

ISBN: 1-886910-14-6

Page Count: 186

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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NO MATTER WHAT

Small, a very little fox, needs some reassurance from Large in the unconditional love department. If he is grim and grumpy, will he still be loved? “ ‘Oh, Small,’ said Large, ‘grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.’ “ So it goes, in a gentle rhyme, as Large parries any number of questions that for Small are very telling. What if he were to turn into a young bear, or squishy bug, or alligator? Would a mother want to hug and hold these fearsome animals? Yes, yes, answers Large. “But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?” There is comfort in Gliori’s pages, but it is a result of repetition and not the imagery; this is a quick fix, not an enduring one, but it eases Small’s fears and may well do the same for children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202061-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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