Sixth-grader Antonia “Ant” MacPherson, a difficult middle-child with “thick, straight dark hair and skin the color of a brown paper grocery bag,” feels like an ugly duckling among her blond mother and sisters. She lies routinely to champion her tiny elderly dog, Pistachio, and her chicken-loving artist friend and classmate Harrison. Bright (she’s selected to compete on her school’s math team), funny, prickly, and defensive, Ant composes letters to her “real” parents and looks for an ally in Just Carol (“Not Ms. or Miss or Mrs. Anything”), the young art teacher who befriends Harrison and Ant. Ant has lived nearly two years in the California city of Sarah’s Road, but frequent moves have left scars on the family. At 12, Ant nurtures a painful relationship with her mother, who seems to diminish and insult her almost unconsciously: “She sees a weed growing in the lawn and . . . she just can’t stop herself from swooping down and snatching it out . . . I will always be a weed to her. I am all wrong.” Just Carol takes Harrison and Ant to volunteer at the city’s zoo, but Ant sabotages the day by concealing Pistachio in her jacket pocket so she can keep his medication on schedule. When the feisty dog escapes and tries to take on a lion, Carol—furious with Ant—lies about the uproar in the lion’s enclosure to protect her volunteer job. Ant’s loneliness and pain ring true but we don’t get a complex sense of Ant’s interior life, despite the first-person narrative. The convergence of plot points is disjointed; even a vigilant reader may be baffled about the timeline. A climactic return visit to the zoo (Pistachio nearly becomes lion-food again, and Ant puts herself in harm’s way to save him) blunts the emotional impact of chapters near the end where Ant achieves a truce with her mother. Lots of ingredients but only moderately satisfying results. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23591-4

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...


Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?