Not nearly as nonconformist—or funny—as the title promises.

NOT SO NORMAL NORBERT

In the United State of Earth, where difference is a disease and creativity is a crime, Norbert cracks a joke—big mistake.

Seventh-grader Norbert Riddle lives a dreary life in Loving Leader’s authoritarian regime, unsuccessfully searching for his parents since they disappeared seven years ago. When he impetuously performs an impression of Loving Leader for his classmates, the Truth Police descend, and Norbert is exiled to “the Astro-Nuts prison on planet Zorquat Three.” Clocking in at 300-plus pages with little real action or humor, this attempt at a humorous twist on the dystopian genre falls short across the board. With just a glimpse of the dictatorship compared to the vast majority of the book describing the prison, some readers will have a difficult time inhabiting Norbert’s perspective—is an ice cream sundae unusual because it’s breakfast or because it’s something he’s never had before? Stilted phrasing, particularly to create tension at the end of chapters, backfires and makes the text drag. Constant use of language casually dismissive of mental diversity assumes an outmoded sensibility. Primary characters are described by hair color and have (paper-) white skin in the illustrations.

Not nearly as nonconformist—or funny—as the title promises. (Dystopian adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-46541-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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