THE SCHOOL STORY

A world-class charmer, Clements (The Janitor’s Boy, 2000, etc.) woos aspiring young authors—as well as grown up publishers, editors, agents, parents, teachers, and even reviewers—with this tongue-in-cheek tale of a 12-year-old novelist’s triumphant debut. Sparked by a chance comment of her mother’s, a harried assistant editor for a (surely fictional) children’s imprint, Natalie draws on deep reserves of feeling and writing talent to create a moving story about a troubled schoolgirl and her father. First, it moves her pushy friend Zoe, who decides that it has to be published; then it moves a timorous, second-year English teacher into helping Zoe set up a virtual literary agency; then, submitted pseudonymously, it moves Natalie’s unsuspecting mother into peddling it to her waspish editor-in-chief. Depicting the world of children’s publishing as a delicious mix of idealism and office politics, Clements squires the manuscript past slush pile and contract, the editing process, and initial buzz (“The Cheater grabs hold of your heart and never lets go,” gushes Kirkus). Finally, in a tearful, joyous scene—carefully staged by Zoe, who turns out to be perfect agent material: cunning, loyal, devious, manipulative, utterly shameless—at the publication party, Natalie’s identity is revealed as news cameras roll. Selznick’s gnomic, realistic portraits at once reflect the tale’s droll undertone and deftly capture each character’s distinct personality. Terrific for flourishing school writing projects, this is practical as well as poignant. Indeed, it “grabs hold of yourheart and never lets go.” (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82594-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

In a large, handsome format, Tarnowska offers six tales plus an abbreviated version of the frame story, retold in formal but contemporary language and sandwiched between a note on the Nights’ place in her childhood in Lebanon and a page of glossary and source notes. Rather than preserve the traditional embedded structure and cliffhanger cutoffs, she keeps each story discrete and tones down the sex and violence. This structure begs the question of why Shahriyar lets Shahrazade [sic] live if she tells each evening’s tale complete, but it serves to simplify the reading for those who want just one tale at a time. Only the opener, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” is likely to be familiar to young readers; in others a prince learns to control a flying “Ebony Horse” by “twiddling” its ears, contending djinn argue whether “Prince Kamar el Zaman [or] Princess Boudour” is the more beautiful (the prince wins) and in a Cinderella tale a “Diamond Anklet” subs for the glass slipper. Hénaff’s stylized scenes of domed cityscapes and turbaned figures add properly whimsical visual notes to this short but animated gathering. (Folktales. 10-12)

 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84686-122-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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COME WITH ME TO AFRICA

A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

An oddly unsatisfying account of a naturalist/photographer's 16,000-mile journey through 13 African countries. Traveling with a group of tourists in a custom-built truck—on an itinerary avoiding political trouble spots—Kreikemeier passed through every kind of landscape, including Kilimanjaro's snow field; his big, sun- drenched color photos expertly capture the drama of Victoria Falls and other natural features as well as close views of wildlife. The text offers less: condensing six months of travel into a few anecdotal paragraphs and captions per page robs the narrative of continuity and any sense of time or distance, while occasional piquant details—the eerie moaning of wind in the baobabs, or a list of belongings crammed into the author's 47-pound allotment- -only point up a tendency toward bland generalities (``Elephants are extremely interesting animals''). Except for a few shots of beaming, ragged young folk, a session with a shaman and his prognosticating land crab (``Fortunately for me, the sorcerer interpreted this as a sign that the rest of the expedition would be successful,'' Kreikemeier condescendingly remarks), and some group shots of herders and dancers, the people of Africa are not much in evidence here. Visually enticing, but not as thoughtful as Chiasson's African Journey (1987). (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-307-15660-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1993

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