PINE ISLAND HOME

Four orphaned girls try to figure out how to get along on their own.

When a relative is found to take them in after their missionary parents’ sudden deaths by tsunami, the McCready sisters move from Borneo to British Columbia only to discover that Great-Aunt Martha has died unexpectedly. However, Martha has left her paperwork in good order, registered the children at the local schools, and stocked her house with food and beds. Fourteen-year-old Fiona must keep everyone together and avoid alerting social services. The school principal is sympathetic and supportive. The cranky neighbor, Al, a drinker who lets fly the occasional oath and whose trailer home is in disarray, reluctantly agrees to pretend to be the girls’ guardian. They think of him as the Waste Troll, based on a disparaging comment by the McCreadys’ garden-gnome–look-alike lawyer. While Marlin, 12, discovers her affinity and talent for cooking and baking, Natasha, 10, becomes a bird-watcher, and Charlie, 8 and a worrier, befriends Al before any of the others. The default white is assumed. Horvath, ever respectful of the inner lives of children, has a way of incorporating moments of sweet hilarity into an account that makes the girls’ situation seem plausible. She doesn’t stint on vocabulary or on sophisticated observations, yet her narrative arc is direct and extraordinarily satisfying, with its emphasis on competence and survival of the domestic, familial, and emotional sort.

Delightful. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4785-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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