A much-decayed Southern mansion does double duty as setting and silent-but-active character in this semi-gothic comedy. Their mother gone and their father off to look for her, 11-year-old Tennyson and her little sister Hattie find themselves suddenly ensconced in Aigredoux, a dusty, vine-choked old plantation house, with half-batty Aunt Henrietta, her bitter servant Zulma and a peacock whose cries sound like human screams. Sparked by vivid flashback dreams of her family’s ruin in the Civil War, Tennyson pens historical tales that she sends off to a New York magazine her mother Sadie always reads. Instead of luring Sadie back, however, the stories bring editor Bartholomew Prentiss, a larger-than-life buffoon sent to track down the “man” he believes to be the next great American writer. Blume builds her cast with characters kind and cruel, threads in most of the tropes and themes common to tales of this style—the cyclical nature of family history, the War’s enduring inner wounds, the complex relations between races, to name but a few—and in the end indicates that the children will get one parent back, at least. A wry, sensitively written meditation on escaping the grip of the past without losing touch with it. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-84703-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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PLB 0-517-70967-8 Me And My Family Tree (32 pp.; $13.00; PLB $14.99; May; 0-517-70966-X; PLB 0-517-70967-8): For children who are naturally curious about the people who care for them (most make inquiries into family relationships at an early age), Sweeney explains, with the assistance of a young narrator, the concept of a family tree. Photographs become understandable once the young girl learns the relationships among family members; she wonders what her own family tree will look like when she marries and has children. A larger message comes at the end of this story: not only does she have a family tree, but so does everyone in the world. Cable’s drawings clearly define the process of creating a family tree; she provides a blank tree so children can start on their own geneaology.(Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-517-70966-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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