LOSTMAN'S RIVER

Years ago, Tyler's pa woke from a drunken stupor next to a dead man and, afraid he'd be convicted of a murder he didn't commit, changed his name and moved his wife and son from New York to the Everglades. Now, in 1906, Tyler is 13, a gifted artist who cares deeply for the region's already-endangered wildlife. ``Plumers'' have recently killed a warden assigned to protect egrets and other species threatened by rapacious hunters gathering their fashionable plumage. When long-winded Mr. Strawbridge of Philadelphia turns up seeking help in what he describes as scientific work, Tyler signs on; his family needs the money and he's glad to draw the pictures Strawbridge praises. But Tyler is quickly disillusioned; like Audubon, this naturalist shoots birds to study them. Sure that the wilderness is destined for annihilation, he aims to preserve specimens for museums; without scruple, he forces Tyler to lead him to a nesting place shown him, on trust, by a Seminole friend. Naãve when it comes to the local situation, Strawbridge loses his life in a terrifying encounter with the plumers; Tyler escapes, but the incident causes Pa to face up to his past and return to New York. This is easily the author's best novel since Weasel (1990), with strong, vividly evoked characters caught up in taut events that make a potent vehicle for a contemporay message illuminated by its historical setting. Author's note. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-726466-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1994

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WEATHER

Remarking that ``nothing about the weather is very simple,'' Simon goes on to describe how the sun, atmosphere, earth's rotation, ground cover, altitude, pollution, and other factors influence it; briefly, he also tells how weather balloons gather information. Even for this outstanding author, it's a tough, complex topic, and he's not entirely successful in simplifying it; moreover, the import of the striking uncaptioned color photos here isn't always clear. One passage—``Cumulus clouds sometimes build up into towering masses called cumulus congestus, or swelling cumulus, which may turn into cumulonimbus clouds''—is superimposed on a blue-gray, cloud-covered landscape. But which kind of clouds are these? Another photo, in blue-black and white, shows what might be precipitation in the upper atmosphere, or rain falling on a darkened landscape, or...? Generally competent and certainly attractive, but not Simon's best. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-10546-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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A YEAR DOWN YONDER

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 2

Set in 1937 during the so-called “Roosevelt recession,” tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn’t “even have a picture show.”

This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with “eyes in the back of her heart.” Peck’s slice-of-life novel doesn’t have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader’s interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language—“She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites”—and Mary Alice’s shrewd, prickly observations: “Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city.”

Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2518-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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