THE TALE OF THE MANDARIN DUCKS

A cruel Japanese lord is preparing to execute Yasuko, the kitchen maid who set free a lovely mandarin drake the lord had in captivity, and Shozor, the one-eyed servant who tried to take the blame in her place. Providentially, two messengers arrive to take the couple to the Imperial Court: they explain that after a vision of the merciful Buddha, the emperor has abolished capital punishment. Actually, though, the messengers are the duck and his mate in disguise; leading Shozo and Yasuko to a comfortable forest hut, they leave the loving couple there for a long, happy life together. Although the jacket describes this as a folk-tale, LC classifies it as fiction. Whichever, Paterson tells it with subtlety, grace, and her characteristic sensitivity to such troths as that "trouble can always be borne when it is shared." The Dillons, who have twice won the Caldecott Medal, have outdone themselves in these elegant, deftly limned illustrations in a Japanese style. In mellow, grayed hues and crisp black, each double spread appears in two borderless panels that allow the eye to make them one without catching in the gutter; the blocks of text are expertly incorporated in the handsome design. An outstanding contribution.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 0-525-67283-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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