HOME OF THE BRAVE

Say (The Sign Painter, 2000, etc.) takes readers on a very personal and perplexing journey in this latest outing, melding together, in dream and nightmare-like fashion, the past, present, and future. This non-linear, fantasy story-within-a-story begins in present day with a man setting off in his kayak and being carried over an enormous waterfall. Here, minus kayak and equipment, he finds himself in a cave at the foot of a ladder, which leads him to the desert above. At this point, Say establishes a Native American connection—an Indian reservation. But then, finding two lost children who are unable to tell him where their home is, he leads them toward the lights of an internment camp that is both present-day deserted and in full WWII use. At the camp, the man finds an ID tag with his own name on it, and a large group of Japanese-American children chanting, “Take us home.” Searchlights from two watchtowers scan the group and everyone runs. In the next painting, the man appears beside a Pueblo kiva. He climbs down another ladder and falls asleep. The children he sees when he wakes are Native American, not Japanese; those children have gone home. In this cryptic story, which relies on both words and pictures, Say exhibits a political tone not seen in his previous work. He explores difficult pieces of US history (Indian reservations, Japanese internment camps), making a tenuous, but powerful, connection, and focusing on the sadness and bewilderment of the children. Adults and families are absent here. The images are photographic and hauntingly beautiful, but the symbolism is not always clear, especially for a child reader who lacks historical context. While providing much to speculate on, this will probably find its rightful audience with teens and adults. (Picture book. 10+)

Pub Date: April 30, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-21223-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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