SPIDER BOY

In a story every bit as engaging as Fletcher's Fig Pudding (1995), and less of an emotional rollercoaster to boot, a seventh- grade arachnophile and his beloved tarantula take some time adjusting to a family move. Between missing his old home and worrying about Thelma (the spider), who has stopped eating, Bobby feels suspended, unable to accept the change in his life long enough to unpack. His parents give him plenty of room and support, plus a huge, ferocious king baboon spider he dubs ``Monk'' as an early birthday present. Not until two new friends take him firmly in hand, and a bully's harassment escalates into spidercide, does Bobby snap out of it. So does Thelma, who molts and once again takes to pouncing on hapless crickets. Capable of telling wild but utterly convincing tall tales about his family at school, courageous enough to make handsome apologies later (and to face his nemesis without fear), Bobby is a beguiling character who fills his notebook with fascinating spider facts (a bibliography is appended) and trenchant observations: ``The female [black widow] allows the male to mate with her. And to show her appreciation she kills him. Eats him. . . . It's lucky human girls aren't this dangerous. Or who knows—maybe they are.'' Creating and guiding a winning cast with a light, sure hand, Fletcher puts a fine, fresh spin on a familiar premise. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-77606-6

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1997

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GIRL'S BEST FRIEND

From the Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries series

In this series debut, Maggie Sinclair tracks down a dognapper and solves a mystery about the noises in the walls of her Brooklyn brownstone apartment building. The 12-year-old heroine, who shares a middle name—Brooklyn—with her twin brother, Finn, is juggling two dogwalking jobs she’s keeping secret from her parents, and somehow she attracts the ire of the dogs’ former walker. Maggie tells her story in the first person—she’s self-possessed and likable, even when her clueless brother invites her ex–best friend, now something of an enemy, to their shared 12th birthday party. Maggie’s attention to details helps her to figure out why dogs seem to be disappearing and why there seem to be mice in the walls of her building, though astute readers will pick up on the solution to at least one mystery before Maggie solves it. There’s a brief nod to Nancy Drew, but the real tensions in this contemporary preteen story are more about friendship and boy crushes than skullduggery. Still, the setting is appealing, and Maggie is a smart and competent heroine whose personal life is just as interesting as—if not more than—her detective work. (Mystery. 10-13)

   

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 967-1-59990-525-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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