BLUE HERON

A versatile author whose popular books include rousing historical adventures (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, 1990, Newbery Honor) and sparkling satire (Nothing But the Truth, 1991) portrays a contemporary family under unusual stress. Flying in for her annual visit with her 50-ish father, his young wife Joanna, and their new baby, Maggie (12) hopes that "nothing about her father [has] changed." Not so: Dad is unaccountably snappish and unreasonable. As the vacation on a Connecticut lake progresses, it develops that he's at odds with Joanna and has heart trouble, while even Joanna doesn't know that he lost his job just after the baby's birth and isn't taking his medication. Maggie's plea that he do so precipitates an angry outburst during which Dad nearly dies in an accident. Though sadly credible, Dad's behavior, as observed by Maggie, makes him unsympathetic and hard to like. Meanwhile, Avi draws other relationships with exceptional subtlety, especially Maggie's growing affection for her nice, intelligent stepmother, who in her need reaches out to her like a sister; and Maggie's delicate negotiation with a neighborhood bully, Tucker, who has been stalking a noble great blue heron. The heron, a potent symbol (Dad says it can mean life or death), has been Maggie's preoccupation and solace; in the end, though Dad's adult problems may defy solution, she manages to transform the belligerent Tucker's perception of the awe-inspiring bird. A thoughtful, beautifully crafted story. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: March 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-707751-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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SMILE

Telgemeier has created an utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work. One night, Raina trips and falls after a Girl Scout meeting, knocking out her two front teeth. This leads to years of painful surgeries, braces, agonizing root canals and other oral atrocities. Her friends offer little solace through this trying ordeal, spending more of their time teasing than comforting her. After years of these girls’ constant belittling, Raina branches out and finds her own voice and a new group of friends. Young girls will relate to her story, and her friend-angst is palpable. Readers should not overlook this seemingly simply drawn work; the strong writing and emotionally expressive characters add an unexpected layer of depth. As an afterword, the author includes a photo of her smiling, showing off the results of all of the years of pain she endured. Irresistible, funny and touching—a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not. (Graphic memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-13205-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bantam Discovery

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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