THE SECRET BOX

A handful of consistently extraordinary stories about secrets, ethics, and bewildering affections, featuring characters from Pearson's One Potato, Tu (1992). The first tale concerns 12-year-old Taylor Finch's crush on her brother Toby's friend and her disappointment when a dreamy outing with the two boys is revealed to be a shoplifting trip. The story also reflects her writer's sensibility—she thrills to have a wooden box that locks so she can hide her writings. The second story features Lindsay, whose stream-of-consciousness narration as she does her homework discloses a decidedly different kind of mind. In the story, involving her presence at a dog's funeral, her brother Eric comes through for her, in contrast to Taylor's experience with Toby. There is a believable story of Eric's first love; another shows him at his first job, in the uncomfortable position of witnessing a beloved teacher shoplifting. The situation is punctuated by aspects of Eric's real life as he comes to a momentous decision that will determine the kind of person he is going to be. A powerful and sad tale ends the book, when sensitive Taylor must face that her brother has grown into a brute. The sum of the five interrelated stories- -of the five interrelated lives—is so much greater than the parts; the billowing emotions within contained situations are authentic and painful. Pearson hasn't forgotten the difficulty of puzzling things out, and the shock and sweetness of seminal experiences. (Short stories. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-689-81379-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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DONAVAN'S WORD JAR

Donavan's friends collect buttons and marbles, but he collects words. ``NUTRITION,'' ``BALLYHOO,'' ``ABRACADABRA''—these and other words are safely stored on slips of paper in a jar. As it fills, Donavan sees a storage problem developing and, after soliciting advice from his teacher and family, solves it himself: Visiting his grandma at a senior citizens' apartment house, he settles a tenants' argument by pulling the word ``COMPROMISE'' from his jar and, feeling ``as if the sun had come out inside him,'' discovers the satisfaction of giving his words away. Appealingly detailed b&w illustrations depict Donavan and his grandma as African-Americans. This Baltimore librarian's first book is sure to whet readers' appetites for words, and may even start them on their own savory collections. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-020190-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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