A fine collection and a boon to writing teachers everywhere.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

WRITING STORIES FROM REAL LIFE

Twenty writers share how they drew upon personal experiences to write short fiction.

Gary D. Schmidt kicks off the collection with a fine story based on a summer-camp job in which his fictional character falls in love and deals with some scary peer pressure. Claire Legrand transmutes a personal experience into an eerie dystopian tale with a tone akin to that of “The Lottery.” Julia Alvarez’s “My First True Frenemy” combines the politics of the Dominican Republic, immigration to the United States, and the difficulties of forging a friendship. A brief “What Really Happened” section precedes each story so that readers can compare the real-life experiences with the fictional renderings. Stories are arranged by theme—peer pressure; regret, guilt, and sadness; being surprised by what some people do; putting others first; asking questions about the world around you; and dealing with change. The stories are purposive, out to show the connections between personal experience and fiction, so there’s a sameness in the first-person point of view and the reminiscent tone, though variety is provided by stories in a graphic novel format, monologues, and verse. Though no single story is a knockout, the collection is consistently strong and useful. What Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe did for personal essays in Breakfast on Mars (2013), Winchell delivers for teachers of short fiction.

A fine collection and a boon to writing teachers everywhere. (Anthology. 10-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48672-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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ENDANGERED

From the Ape Quartet series , Vol. 1

Congolese-American Sophie makes a harrowing trek through a war-torn jungle to protect a young bonobo.

On her way to spend the summer at the bonobo sanctuary her mother runs, 14-year-old Sophie rescues a sickly baby bonobo from a trafficker. Though her Congolese mother is not pleased Sophie paid for the ape, she is proud that Sophie works to bond with Otto, the baby. A week before Sophie's to return home to her father in Miami, her mother must take advantage
of a charter flight to relocate some apes, and she leaves Sophie with Otto and the sanctuary workers. War breaks out, and after missing a U.N. flight out, Sophie must hide herself and Otto from violent militants and starving villagers. Unable to take Otto out of the country, she decides finding her mother hundreds of miles to the north is her only choice. Schrefer jumps from his usual teen suspense to craft this well-researched tale of jungle survival set during a fictional conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Realistic characters (ape and human) deal with disturbing situations described in graphic, but never gratuitous detail. The lessons Sophie learns about her childhood home, love and what it means to be endangered will resonate with readers.

Even if some hairbreadth escapes test credulity, this is a great next read for fans of our nearest ape cousins or survival adventure. (map, author's note, author Q&A) (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-16576-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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