THE BELOVED DEARLY

Recast from a prizewinning stage production, this patchy tale of a young entrepreneur has a satiric edge that will play better to adult audiences. Ever on the lookout for moneymaking opportunities, young Ernie Castellano hits paydirt when he converts an empty lot into a pet cemetery. Thanks to some high pressure sales tactics, plus a hired staff than includes Dusty, a nerdy but loyal artist with a genius for turning junk into elaborately decorated coffins; Swimming Pool, quaintly introduced as a “tomboy,” who discovers an innate talent for feeling a bereaved pet owner’s pain; and Tony, a “scrappy” eight-year-old boy-with-a-shovel, the funeral biz is soon booming. It’s not hard to see this show’s theatrical roots in the thoroughly typecast characters and in snappy, Little Rascals–style dialogue (Tony: “ ‘It’s not complicated. When I got a gig, I gotta dig. That’s my motto. I’m an independent contractor’ ”) that Cooney’s interpolated narrative passages only serve to slow down. Most of all there’s a string of stagy set pieces that end with Ernie and his Dad both grieving in the wake of Ernie’s Mom’s death from cancer, growing closer by decorating the grave of the family dog together. Young readers are unlikely to give this a standing ovation, but the broadly brushed comedy and sentiment may draw an occasional chuckle or tear. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83127-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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NO MATTER WHAT

Small, a very little fox, needs some reassurance from Large in the unconditional love department. If he is grim and grumpy, will he still be loved? “ ‘Oh, Small,’ said Large, ‘grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.’ “ So it goes, in a gentle rhyme, as Large parries any number of questions that for Small are very telling. What if he were to turn into a young bear, or squishy bug, or alligator? Would a mother want to hug and hold these fearsome animals? Yes, yes, answers Large. “But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?” There is comfort in Gliori’s pages, but it is a result of repetition and not the imagery; this is a quick fix, not an enduring one, but it eases Small’s fears and may well do the same for children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202061-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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