A gently written tale of family caught in the most corrosive of situations, this is a story of guilt and reconciliation. Indeed there is plenty of guilt to go around. Eleven-year-old Angel and little brother Bernie have “parents that acted like spoiled babies and a great-grandmother who needed a mother as much as they did.” Dad is in jail and the children are at the mercy of their mother’s irresponsible, mercurial moods. She abandons them with their prickly great-grandmother, who lives a hardscrabble life in a ramshackle Vermont farmhouse. Then she returns to “kidnap” Bernie, breaking Grandma’s and Angel’s hearts. After the mother’s drunken boyfriend has an accident in which she is almost killed and Bernie is injured, the family seems headed for reunion. Some characters may have been seen before: from the feisty grandmother with the soft center who herself has failed several generations of children, to her Vietnam-veteran son whose life has been ruined by drugs, but who is one important adult in Angel’s life. Central metaphors are best stated by the wise, elderly librarian (the only truly unselfish adult in the book) to whom Angel turns in each crisis. Miss Liza, the only physically misshapen character in a world of crippled adults, quotes the Bible to remind Angel that God is always mindful of man, that He “hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” Angel is indeed angelic. She is the selfless caretaker, the responsible “adult” in a world where she’s always left behind and always disappointed by the very adults who ought to love and care for her. If she’s almost too good to be true—constantly buckling seat belts, lecturing on the five food groups, and fussing over proper outerwear in the cold—readers will recognize her and root for her because the odds are so badly stacked against her. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-24744-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.


Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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