THE DANCING PANCAKE

Eleven-year-old Bindi copes with her parents’ separation and an unsettling move, supported by a gently colorful cast of characters. When Dad disappears to job-hunt far away, Bindi barely notices—until she learns that her parents have actually separated. Mom needs a job, and Aunt Darnell’s always dreamed of a restaurant, so The Dancing Pancake is born, open for breakfast and lunch only. Bindi and Mom move into the apartment upstairs. The diner’s populated by relatives (mother, good-natured aunt and uncle, energetic four-year-old cousin), a friendly teenage waitress and a wise, idealized homeless woman. Bindi’s free-verse narration makes for smooth, simple reading; Lew-Vriethoff’s line drawings add spirit. Bindi’s believable emotional aches exist in a fairly innocent world—where a six-year-old can roam a zoo alone, the most angry 11-year-olds might do “everything / from kicking pumpkins / to screaming ‘Banana poop!’ / in the principal’s office” and God and Sunday School teach Bindi an altruism that lessens her own melancholy. Choose readers who’ll enjoy, rather than envy, Bindi’s parents’ reunion at the end. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-85870-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers...

HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives.

Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right.

Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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