THINK AGAIN

More than 40 introspective poems and accompanying illustrations explore the complexity of close relationships. The gifted Canadian artists Lawson (Black Stars in a White Night Sky, 2008) and Morstad (Where You Came From, with Sara O’Leary, 2008) here turn away from unabashed silliness to tackle the more serious aspects of relationship building and character formation that greet children moving into their teens. Ever playful, the poet’s pithy quatrains distill relational truths to their essence—“My Dad had a mid-life crisis, quit his wife and job. / The briefest summing up suffices: / Gave himself up to his vices / Lives on beer and pizza slices”—or lightly capture the gravitas of a moment—“Sit still said her father— / Quiet said her mom: / So she sat still and quiet / As an unexploded bomb.” While the illustrator’s spare grayscale drawings curiously stitch more of a narrative thread through the volume than the poems suggest, they effectively amplify the tension they masterfully depict. An entirely rewarding combination. (Poetry. 9-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55453-423-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE

A young teen whose world is filled with colors and shapes that no one else sees copes with the universal and competing drives to be unique and to be utterly and totally normal. Thirteen-year-old Mia is a synesthete: her brain connects her visual and auditory systems so that when she hears, or thinks about, sounds and words, they carry with them associated colors and shapes that fill the air about her. This is a boon in many ways—she excels in history because she can remember dates by their colors—and a curse. Ever since she realized her difference, she has concealed her ability, until algebra defeats her: “Normally an x is a shiny maroon color, like a ripe cherry. But here an x has to stand for an unknown number. But I can’t make myself assign the x any other color than maroon, and there are no maroon-colored numbers. . . . I’m lost in shades of gray and want to scream in frustration.” When Mia learns that she is not alone, she begins to explore the lore and community of synesthesia, a process that disrupts her relationships with her family, friends, and even herself. In her fiction debut for children, Mass has created a memorable protagonist whose colors enhance but do not define her dreamily artistic character. The present-tense narration lends immediacy and impact to Mia’s color perceptions: “Each high-pitched meow sends Sunkist-orange coils dancing in front of me. . . . ” The narrative, however, is rather overfull of details—a crazily built house, highly idiosyncratic family members, two boy interests, a beloved sick cat—which tend to compete for the reader’s attention in much the same way as Mia’s colors. This flaw (not unusual with first novels) aside, here is a quietly unusual and promising offering. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-52388-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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