RABBLE STARKEY

For Parable Ann (Rabble) and her mother, Sweet Hosanna, her sixth-grade year is a time of growth and change. Sweet Ho was 14 when she ran off with Ginger Starkey; he left her the next year, when Rabble was a month old. Now she's been caring for the Bigelows for four years, and it seems like a first true home. Veronica Bigelow, also 12, is Rabble's best friend, almost a sister. Then Mrs. Bigelow, deeply depressed since four-year-old Gunther's birth, erupts into frightening, bizarre behavior and is institutionalized; while she's away, the little family that's left enjoys peaceful, joyous times; Phil Bigelow reads aloud in the evening and treats the two girls as though they were both his daughters. As the year progresses, the girls take responsibility for helping the cantankerous old woman who lives alone next door; the obnoxious local bully shows signs of blossoming into Veronica's first beau; Sweet Ho goes back to school and does so well she decides to get a college degree, and narrator Rabble decides to tidy up her own grammar (a neat stylistic transition on Lowry's part). But although Rabble has surprised Phil and Sweet Ho in a tender kiss, when Mrs. Bigelow is able to come home, Sweet Ho decides to move on—both she and Rabble have more growing to do, more things in store. Lowry, with six Anastasias and several other fine books to her credit, is adept at portraying the nuances of relationships and emotions. Here she presents a lively cast of characters in an unusual plot, skillfully handled.

Pub Date: April 27, 1987

ISBN: 0395436079

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Artful, cathartic, and most needed.

AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT

A profound visual testimony to how much changed while we all had to stay inside and how much—painfully, mournfully—stayed the same.

Reynolds’ poetry and Griffin’s art perform a captivating dance on pages of mixed-media collage and emotive reflection on the pronounced threats facing a contemporary Black family. In “Breath One,” the opening of the verse narrative, the unnamed boy protagonist struggles with the onslaught of TV news coverage of the systemic violence and death experienced by Black people—coverage that is both overwhelming and insufficient. The television then forms the backdrop of the narrator’s concerns for his bedridden father, who is struggling with an acute respiratory illness while isolated in a bedroom. The art is sometimes spare and monochrome before shifting to a bright and striking palette as Griffin deploys aesthetics that enliven the rich flow and rhythm of Reynolds’ words. The two skillfully go back and forth like rap duos of old, each with a distinct voice that enriches the other. The result is an effective critique of the ways we’ve failed as a society to care for one another. By “Breath Three,” however, a complicated optimism shines through for a family that perseveres through closeness and connection despite what is broadcast from their TV. While grounded in 2020, many of the issues touched on explicitly are very much not over and not even new, making this remarkable work both timely and timeless.

Artful, cathartic, and most needed. (conversation between creators) (Illustrated poetry. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3946-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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