MIGHTY BOY

PLB 0-531-33203-9 A silly, but ultimately satisfying story of wish-fulfillment, in which Sonenklar (My Own Worst Enemy, p. 727, etc.) perfectly captures a middle grader’s obsession with fantasy heroes. Small for his age, often bullied, new kid Howard is thrilled when he wins a contest to attend a taping of his favorite TV show, “Mighty Boy.” Even though he knows that Mighty Boy is played by an actor, Howard is nevertheless shocked to find that the actor has none of the hero’s qualities. When the two boys get lost in the woods, Howard’s camping skills, learned from his father entirely offstage, save the day. Sonenklar is deft in limning Howard’s preoccupation with Mighty Boy: he dreams about him at night, daydreams during class, and, even in the presence of the (and initially not very nice) boy, can’t quite grasp the idea that none of it is real. The dangerous way Howard deals with the bully when he returns to school (he smacks a beehive so that the bees attack his tormentor) lacks any sort of warning; otherwise this is a funny and enjoyable novel. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-531-30203-2

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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THE BANISHED

In a prequel to The Ice Bear (1986), Siri’s people live in the frozen Starkland settlement, residing peacefully with the primitive Furfolk, who communicate by whuffles and grunts. Siri’s Uncle Thorvald plans to convince the king to rescind their people’s banishment to that remote arctic isle with the gift of an ice bear and its cubs. To do this he needs the help of his friend, a Furfolk man, who can handle the bear on the long sea journey; Siri accompanies them disguised as one of the Furfolk man’s children. But when the king insists that the Furfolk man stay with the bear, Thorvald is forced to betray his friend for the sake of his people, while Siri chooses to betray Thorvald for her new Furfolk friends. Her allegiances have shifted during the course of the journey, and in the end it is left unclear whether her people will try to destroy the Furfolk, and what Siri can do to stop them. This complex, atmospheric morality tale offers no easy answers, and takes place in a world that is alien and exotic. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16602-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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RIVER FRIENDLY, RIVER WILD

Kurtz (I’m Sorry, Almira Ann, 1999, etc.) turns personal disaster into a universally affecting book about the 1997 flooding of the Red River in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Pictures and text catapult readers into the experience of loss when a river swells higher than anyone could have imagined and floods a town. Fleeing her home, the narrator leaves her cat behind and spends much of the flood’s aftermath missing her “motor-stomach Kiwi cat” as her family sleeps on the shelter’s hard cots; knows that “someday I’ll do the same for someone else” as she accepts provisions others have anonymously donated and delivered; sifts through the family’s sodden Christmas box to find mostly useless evidence of happy memories; and sees the unutterable mess and loss of all that is home, which will finally, ironically, be washed away by a new, life-saving dike. The beautifully articulate poems chronicle as well the loss of a good neighborhood, one where people save a cat because they can and it’s a good thing to do, just as they would, in happier times, have loaned a cup of sugar. Without sentimentality, the book speaks of loss as elemental as the force bringing it and of survival of equal magnitude. Brennan’s stylish oils, sometimes framed on a page, sometimes in full-bleed pages or spreads, capture and express this blend of specific universality. A book that belongs on every shelf in buildings up and down the country’s riverways. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82049-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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