BIRD IN A BOX

It’s the era of Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington at the Savoy and Philco radios in living rooms across the country, hope and dreams afloat on the airwaves. Told in the alternating voices of 12-year-olds Hibernia, Otis and Willie, and covering the period between Louis’ 1936 loss to Max Schmeling and his 1937 title fight with James Braddock, the artfully orchestrated novel is related with grace, restraint and a wealth of historical detail. This last is carefully woven into the fabric of the story and rarely calls attention to itself. Even before they meet later in the story, the young trio is linked by their radios, bringing them Gang BustersThe Lone RangerFibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, the Chick Webb Orchestra from the Savoy Ballroom and, most importantly, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, whom they understand is “fighting for the pride of Negroes.” The three protagonists come together in the final scene, in which Louis fights Braddock for the heavyweight championship of the world. Perfect pacing and italicized radio commentary drawn from Pinkney’s research provide a tense and rousing closing, in which the dreams that Louis represented do come true, and three new friends find that “faith is here like a long-gone friend.” (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-07403-2

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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Tales that “lay out your options for painful and interesting ways to die.” And to live.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK HEROES

In a similarly hefty companion to Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods (2014), the most voluble of Poseidon’s many sons dishes on a dozen more ancient relatives and fellow demigods.

Riordan averts his young yarn spinner’s eyes from the sex but not the stupidity, violence, malice, or bad choices that drive so many of the old tales. He leavens full, refreshingly tart accounts of the ups and downs of such higher-profile heroes as Theseus, Orpheus, Hercules, and Jason with the lesser-known but often equally awesome exploits of such butt-kicking ladies as Atalanta, Otrera (the first Amazon), and lion-wrestling Cyrene. In thought-provoking contrast, Psyche comes off as no less heroic, even though her story is less about general slaughter than the tough “Iron Housewives quests” Aphrodite forces her to undertake to rescue her beloved Eros. Furthermore, along with snarky chapter heads (“Phaethon Fails Driver’s Ed”), the contemporary labor includes references to Jay-Z, Apple Maps, god-to-god texting, and the like—not to mention the way the narrator makes fun of hard-to-pronounce names and points up such character flaws as ADHD (Theseus) and anger management issues (Hercules). The breezy treatment effectively blows off at least some of the dust obscuring the timeless themes in each hero’s career. In Rocco’s melodramatically murky illustrations, men and women alike display rippling thews and plenty of skin as they battle ravening monsters.

Tales that “lay out your options for painful and interesting ways to die.” And to live. (maps, index) (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8365-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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