BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA

From an author who's made a career of experimenting with different narrative structures comes this first sprawling tale in The Escape From Home books; it's done as a Victorian serial novel with a huge cast, and a multiplicity of short chapters setting out an episodic plot replete with chance meetings, narrow escapes, and dismaying revelations. Unable to bear the bullying of his older brother, Albert, Laurence Kirkle, 11, pockets a thousand pounds of his father's cash and runs into the London streets; meanwhile, two of Lord Kirkle's Irish tenants—Patrick, 12, and his older sister, Maura—flee their famine-struck village, intending to join their father in the US. The three quickly fall prey to the hazards of street life as they make their separate ways toward Liverpool, the great embarkation point. The supporting cast, urchins, rowdies, and entrepreneurs with names like Phineas Pickler and Toby Grout will be familiar to fans of Dickens and his literary descendants—and several characters are developed beyond the expected caricatures—but the melodrama is mild, and the ending is hardly the spectacular cliffhanger required of the genre. Many plot threads are left a- dangle; Avi (Poppy, 1995, etc.) promises a sequel but few readers will be chewing their nails waiting for it. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-531-09513-4

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1996

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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