ALAN v23n2 - THE BOOK CONNECTION- Clip and File Reviews of New Hardcover Fiction
Clip and File Reviews of New Hardcover FictionVirginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner , editors
Myers, Walter Dean
Shadow of the Red Moon
Reviewed by Richard F. Abrahamson
University of Houston
The Iron Woman
Reviewed by Susanne L. Johnston
Lecturer in English
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Regan, Dian Curtis
Reviewed by Ruth K. J. Cline
University of Colorado, Boulder
Hoover, H. M.
The Winds of Mars
Reviewed by M. Jean Greenlaw
University of North Texas
Shadow of the Red Moon by Walter Dean Myers Fantasy
Illustrations by Christopher Myers
Scholastic, 1995. 176 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-45895-7
We know Myers for the realism of Fallen Angels , the poetry of Brown Angels , and the nonfiction of Malcolm X . In his new novel he takes readers into a fantasy world of warring Fens and Okalians.
Shadow of the Red Moon is the story of fifteen-year-old Jon, an Okalian. Jon is made to leave the safety of his family and the protection of the Crystal City to enter the Wilderness and find his way to the ancestral Ancient Land. His forced departure from home is the result of an attack by Fens, a tribe of children doomed by a plague to never become adults.
In the Wilderness, Jon befriends two other Okalians, and the three of them survive attacks by Fens and wild dogs, rescue a black unicorn, and start to question the truth about much of what they have been taught. As they near the Ancient Land, the youngsters decide to help a wounded Fen girl, and, in the process, commit themselves to starting a new city where Fens and Okalians live together as one people.
The ALAN Review Richard F. Abrahamson
Winter 1996 University of Houston
The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes Fantasy/Pollution/Responsibility
Dial Books, 1995. 109 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-8037-1796-2
In this brief book, Ted Hughes weaves a page-turning fantasy about pollution and responsibility. The huge, mechanistic Iron Woman rises out of the swamp and seeks retribution from the Waste Factory for all the creatures who suffer in contaminated water. Lucy, whose father works for the factory, the major polluter in town, is caught in the middle. Lucy tries to reason with the Iron Woman and, at the same time, tries to show adults that they must look beyond profits and act responsibly toward the environment.
Readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief will see a frightening picture of greed and environmental degradation, followed by an idealized world born of love and collaboration.
The ALAN Review Susanne L. Johnston
Winter 1996 University of Wisconsin-Stout
Princess Nevermore by Dian Curtis Regan Fantasy/Growing Up
Scholastic, 1995. 232 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-45758-6
Princess Quinnella of Mandria will be betrothed to a prince when she turns sixteen; but, before that can happen, she inadvertently slips into the earth world. Her pampered life is obvious as she tries to cope with earth people. She is met by Mondo, a refugee from Mandria, who urges Quinn to return home. Quinn has gone to high school with Mondo's two grandchildren, Adam and Sarah; has fallen in love with Adam; and experienced envy of his sister Sarah. Zack, a crude jock, makes an obvious play for her but is interested in the secret to her magic. She slips back into her Mandria world before he harms her, but she realizes how foolish she was to be involved with him. Clever writing assignments could evolve from this story about a visitor from another world coming to the reader's school; the story also has several stereotypes who could be the basis for discussion.
The ALAN Review Ruth K. J. Cline
Winter 1996 University of Colorado, Boulder
The Winds of Mars by H. M. Hoover Science Fiction
Dutton, 1995. 181 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-45359-8
Annalyn, one of the legal children of the President of Mars, is in-training to become a presidential bodyguard. Her mother, whom she has never met, sends her a robot, Hector Protector. As Annalyn's training nears its end, there is a revolt and her father and the crystal city he controls are under attack. The truth of the rumors that certain people have undergone mind transfers and are actually androids becomes abundantly clear, and Annalyn joins the forces seeking to overthrow the government and restore democracy to Mars.
The story is an adventure tale, though a bit improbable, but the precepts that it explores are provocative, when one contemplates the possibilities of science in the near future. Those who read science fiction for the action will find plenty of it, and those who read it for ideas will also find satisfaction.
The ALAN Review M. Jean Greenlaw
Winter 1996 University of North Texas
Reviewed by James E. Davis
Professor of English
Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia
Reviewed by Marjorie M. Kaiser
Professor of Secondary Education
University of Louisville
Nixon, Joan Lowery
Reviewed by Nicholas J. Karolides
Professor of English
University of Wisconsin-River Falls
River Falls, Wisconsin
Fire on the Wind
Reviewed by Margaret J. Ford
Memorial High School
Dangerous Wishes by William Sleator Supernatural
Dutton, 1995. 182 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-45283-4
In this sequel to The Spirit House , fifteen-year-old Dom is in Thailand, where he and his parents experience a run of bad luck, all due to the jade carving that must be returned to its shrine to appease an angry Thai spirit. Dom is joined in his search by his new friend Lek, who takes Dom on a perilous journey to Lek's home village. They experience a cliff-hanging adventure on practically every page, but survive each one. Readers may be more interested in the subplot of how Lek is going to make his living than in whether Dom will rid himself of bad luck. All problems seem to be resolved when the carving is returned, but Dom has made one final wish for Lek. And as always with Sleator's work, the reader is left to wonder what will happen next.
The ALAN Review James E. Davis
Winter 1996 Ohio University
Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia by Joan Carris Mystery
Little, Brown, 1995. 141 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-316-12961-5
Middle schoolers who like a spooky mystery will take to Joan Carris' latest. Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia is Carris' second novel to feature Morbelia Fearing, a transplanted Brit and great-aunt to seventh grader, Todd Fearing. Together with Todd and his friend, Jeff, Morbelia travels to England to check up on her inherited property and to treat the boys to a bit of a holiday. Puzzles concerning eccentric Fearing ancestors and the decay of Harrowood, the ancient family estate, propel the action in this story. Eerie settings, disguised stalkers, and strange sounds and situations create a creepy, suspenseful tale, a genuine page-turner. Yet after unraveling the twists and turns and explaining the spookiness, a reader will come away with three kinds of new knowledge: a world of information about birds; an introductory acquaintanceship with the geography and contemporary and historical facts about London; and an awareness of the value of accepting differences among human beings.
The ALAN Review Marjorie M. Kaiser
Winter 1996 University of Louisville
Spirit Seeker by Joan Lowery Nixon Mystery
Delacorte, 1995. 197 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32062-0
When Holly Campbell recognizes that her detective father believes that Cody Garnett, her friend, is the prime suspect in the murder of his parents, she sets out to prove him innocent. Determined, she follows leads that seem to lead nowhere, but the evidence points to him as does his behavior. With the help of a clairvoyant, she begins to get inside the case. Mainly she depends on herself; but, in an unexpected way, seeking the spirits helps Holly discover the villain. He tracks her and Cody and clearly is willing to commit a second double murder. Holly will not quite take on the mantle of Nancy Drew, but she makes a good try. The pace of the novel is fast, perhaps too fast, not allowing for the build-up of clues and counter-clues. Holly's investigative ingenuity is not fully tested. On balance, the text provides a degree of reality in Holly's behavior. Young middle schoolers will be the prime audience for Spirit Seeker .
The ALAN Review Nicholas J. Karolides
Winter 1996 University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Fire on the Wind by Linda Crew Oregon/Logging/Forest Fires
Delacorte, 1995. 198 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-385-32185-6
Estora "Storie" Rendall and her family survive the Tillamook Burn of 1933, a vast forest fire that destroyed "an area half the size of Rhode Island." Linda Crew recreates a regional landscape of 1930s Oregon filtered through the eyes of Storie, a thirteen-year old working her way through adolescence. Would she become a traditional loggers' wife whose sole purpose was to prepare the massive meals necessary to "stoke the engines" of her hard-working husband? Or would she realize her mother's vision for her as an educated woman, a teacher?
Crew's novel is loaded with images of Oregon logging in the pre-reforestation 1930s, raising issues of environmental responsibility, economic and employment hardships, and the role of women in the logging camps. This novel would make an excellent coming-of-age story with a historical twist for grades six through ten.
The ALAN Review Margaret J. Ford
Winter 1996 Memorial High School
The Haunting of Holroyd Hill
Reviewed by Hugh Agee
University of Georgia
Reviewed by Lois Buckman
Moorhead Junior High School
Reviewed by Sati Maharaj-Boggs
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Vick, Helen Hughes
Walker's Journey Home
Reviewed by Chris Crowe
Associate Professor of English
Brigham Young University
The Haunting of Holroyd Hill by Brenda Seabrooke Adventure/Ghost Story
Dutton, 1995. 137 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-65167-5
When Melinda and her older brother Kevin move to their new home on Holroyd Hill near the battlefield of Manassas, they don't expect to encounter a ghost from the Civil War's first battle. With their new friend Dan, they begin to unravel the mysterious events behind the ghost's mission, and their search leads to some startling discoveries, especially for Dan. Melinda's sensitivity to the plight of this nightly visitor from the past keeps the youths on target. Seabrooke provides enough historical detail, including a trip by the young trio to the National Archives, to give validity to the story. As expected, the contemporary adults in this story remain in the background for the most part. Middle-school readers will enjoy this story. A good read for those who enjoy a ghost story.
The ALAN Review Hugh Agee
Winter 1996 The University of Georgia
Moon Dancer by Margaret Rostkowski Backpacking/Indians of North American
Harcourt Brace, 1995. 180 pp. $11.00 ISBN: 0-15-276638-3
Mira has always been in awe of her beautiful sister, Jenny, until their backpacking trip to the canyons of rural Utah with two of their peers. They are following the trail of a reclusive pioneer woman who spent much of her lifetime documenting the Indian wall art they are trying to locate. While Jenny constantly complains, Mira is intrigued by the wall art that they find and imagines what life must have been like for the Indians who lived there. Mira fantasizes about life for a woman living alone in the wilderness one hundred years ago. Reality interrupts her daydreaming when she finds herself alone in the moonlight with Max and realizes that she doesn't have to live her life in her sister's shadow.
Steeped in Indian heritage, the plot moves along with adventure, romance, and a touch of danger as the four cope with the backpacking trip and each other.
The ALAN Review Lois Buckman
Winter 1996 Moorhead Junior High School
Indio by Sherry Garland Multicultural/Historical
Harcourt Brace, 1995. 292 pp. $11.00 ISBN: 0-15-238631-9
Over the nine-year period that this coming-of-age novel spans, Ipa-tah-chi illustrates the unyielding determination to overcome perpetual hardship, first as an orphan and then as a slave of the Spaniards. Captured by the Spanish conquistadors at age 14, only moments before she was to marry her beloved Coyomo, Ipa and her younger brother, Kadoh, are forcibly taken to the silver mines in Mexico to work. It is against this backdrop that Ipa's growth and maturity occur. She overcomes the deaths of her grandmother, father, cousin, and uncle, and watches Kadoh descend slowly into insanity as a slave for the ruthless Juan Diestro, a foreman in the silver mines. However, Ipa's life in bondage is tempered by the love, kindness, and sensitivity of the Spaniard, Rodrigo. Garland weaves some historical facts into this mostly fictional work to create an intriguing, fast-moving plot with complex and believable characters. Set in the 1500s in southwestern United States and in Mexico, the novel touches on a variety of issues including love, marriage, endurance, perseverance, jealousy, oppression, sacrifice, the struggle of adapting to a different culture, rape, abuse, death, pragmatism, strength, and courage. The novel will appeal to readers from junior high to high school.
The ALAN Review Sati Maharaj-Boggs
Winter 1996 Appalachian State University
Walker's Journey Home by Helen Hughes Vick Historical Adventure/
Harbinger House, 1995. 182 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-57140-000-1
This sequel to Walker of Time (a 1994 ALA Best Books for Young Adults) continues the adventure of Walker, a young Hopi transported back to the 13th century to lead the Sinagua from their dry and barren canyon dwellings to a better life on Hopi land. As the newly appointed chief of the group, Walker faces many obstacles in leading his people across the barren northern-Arizona landscape to the Hopi mesas.
Vick has done her cultural and geographical homework for this page-turning novel. Walker and his clan are portrayed accurately, and more importantly, humanly, as real, intelligent people struggling for survival. The plot is fast-moving with plenty of suspense and surprises that are certain to keep readers interested to the very end. This book and its predecessor are well written and well packaged. Readers interested in early Native Americans will surely enjoy this book, but so will any readers interested in a well-told adventure story.
The ALAN Review Chris Crowe
Winter 1996 Brigham Young University
Once on This Island
Reviewed by Joan Nist
Keeping the Good Light
Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman
Professor of English
University of South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Reviewed by Barbara G. Samuels
University of Houston, Clear Lake
Clear Lake, Texas
Reed, Don C.
Reviewed by Gary D. Schmidt
Professor of English
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Once on This Island by Gloria Whelan Historical Fiction
HarperCollins, 1995. 186 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-06-026248-6
Author Gloria Whelan has taken a little-known area of the War of 1812 and brought to life the years of British occupation of Mackinac Island, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. The O'Shea family struggles to work the farm after their father leaves for the American army. Mary, twelve at story's start but a mature fifteen by book's end, labors with tasks on the land she loves. Older brother Jacques eventually leaves to become a fur trader, and older sister Angelique weds a British officer when peace comes. The book portrays the joys as well as hardships of the Great Lakes climate: "the green flags of seedlings told us we had won the battle of winter." Noteworthy is the sympathetic presentation of Indians, many of whom fought for the British, including Gavin, the young Indian orphan who resolves his divided loyalties and plans to return to Mackinac and Mary.
The ALAN Review Joan Nist
Winter 1996 Auburn University
Keeping the Good Light by Katherine Kirkpatrick Historical Fiction
Delacorte, 1995. 224 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-385-32161-9
"Keeping the good light" means making sure a lighthouse's beacon never goes out, lest a shipwreck occur; but Eliza Charity Brown, 16, finds her own way to be a guiding light. Because she hates the tedious chores at her family's New York Harbor lighthouse in 1903, she rejoices when she can escape her rocky prison by rowing to school on City Island. After a tragic family loss, she has the opportunity to teach at the school. As Eliza discovers her true gift for working with children, she also learns the wisdom of her mentor's advice: "The most important thing about teaching is that you show joy and enthusiasm."
Teenagers -- girls especially -- will find Eliza admirable: independent and intelligent, yet impulsive and vulnerable. She faces with courage and dignity many of the same conflicts that trouble young people today, such as those with parents, siblings, teachers, and romance. Kirkpatrick's setting is authentic, her well-crafted plot moves quickly, and her engaging heroine celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.
The ALAN Review Laura M. Zaidman
Winter 1996 University of South Carolina
Broken Days by Ann Rinaldi Historical Fiction
Scholastic, 1995. 240 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-46053-6
Rinaldi continues the saga of the dysfunctional Chelmsford family twenty years later in this second book in The Quilt Trilogy following A Stitch in Time! This story is set against the development of New England cotton mills, Salem's shipping and trading, and the War of 1812. When Walking Breeze, a fourteen-year-old half-Shawnee girl, is traded to the white people, her dying white mother, Thankful, directs her to the mother's family, the Chelmsfords. Ebie, jealous of the intrusion on her position as the only grandchild in Salem, hides the portion of the family quilt that Walking Breeze brings to prove her identity. The clash of New England and Indian cultures, well researched by Rinaldi, is made worse by the tensions of the War of 1812. Although the tattered quilt symbolism and parallel stories seem heavy-handed, adolescent girls will be drawn, as I was, to the characters, romance, and history.
The ALAN Review Barbara G. Samuels
Winter 1996 University of Houston, Clear Lake
The Kraken by Don C. Reed Fisherman's Life/Newfoundland
Boyds Mill Press, 1995. 217 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-56397-216-6
While fishing in the cold waters off Newfoundland in the year 1873, young Mark Piccot encounters the Kraken, a giant squid that threatens to swamp his boat. But this danger is not the only disaster that threatens Mark and his family as they struggle to survive in their coastal fishing village. There are the merchants who steal from the fishermen by undervaluing their catch and who entrap them in debt. There are the harsh winters where food is scarce, wood is dear, and children starve. There are the woodsdevils that steal from trap lines, and storms that come up to swamp boats. In this story, which uses language and detail to evoke vividly the harsh life of the Newfoundland fisherman, Mark comes to understand that simply because something is does not make it right; he learns that he can act to make change, to make a better world. The metaphor of the Kraken dominates the narrative, as Reed describes a world of cold, harsh conditions in which love and family commitments matter above all else.
The ALAN Review Gary D. Schmidt
Winter 1996 Calvin College
Like Sisters on the Home Front
Reviewed by Kay Parks Bushman
Language Arts Department Chair
Ottawa High School
Reviewed by Connie S. Zitlow
Associate Professor of Education
Ohio Wesleyan University
Reviewed by John H. Bushman
University of Kansas
The Last Safe Place on Earth
Reviewed by William R. Mollineaux
Teacher of English
Sedgwick Middle School
West Hartford, Connecticut
Like Sisters on the Homefront by Rita Williams-Garcia Teen Parents/Family
Lodestar, 1995. 165 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-67465-9
When teen mother Gayle gets pregnant for the second time, as if it's no big deal, her mother marches her to the local clinic for an abortion and ships her and her baby Jose away to live with relatives down South. There she must learn to deal with her preacher uncle; her strict, value-laden aunt; and her cousin Cookie, whose life is filled with singing solos and youth group at church. Although Gayle is given the choice to stay home from school to care for Jose, she is also given many chores, among which is to care for her bed-ridden Great-Grandmother. Ironically, it is with Great that Gayle connects, is able to be herself, and learns the value of family.
This is undoubtedly one of the best books that I have read, not only for its strong characters and themes, but also for its rich African-American voice which brings the characters to life.
The ALAN Review Kay Parks Bushman
Winter 1996 Ottawa High School
Taking It by Michael Cadnum Shoplifting/Family Relationships
Viking, 1995. 135 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-670-86130-8
Anna wants to think she is in control, but her dangerous game of shoplifting has taken over. Why is Maureen's blue ceramic frog in Anna's slipper and her brother's money in her purse? Anna, like the protagonists in Cadnum's YA novels Calling Home and Breaking the Fall , is caught between divorced parents with whom communication is strained. Cadnum's first-person narrative style shows how lonely and disconnected Anna is -- from herself and others, including Stu, with whom she has a sexual but hollow relationship. Anna envies her friend Maureen's warm family situation, becomes frightened of the creature inside her, and ultimately must face her own strange behavior.
Anna's vintage Mustang and Maureen's dog Lincoln are important characters in this quick, gripping read. Taking It is not a horror story, but it has some unexpected twists. Cadnum's writing is full of short sentences, vivid images, and a dark atmosphere that fits the story -- a style some readers have compared to that of Robert Cormier and Chris Crutcher.
The ALAN Review Connie S. Zitlow
Winter 1996 Ohio Wesleyan University
Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett Family/Violence
Viking, 1995. 130 pp. $12.99 ISBN: 0-670-86503-6
Powerful, ravaging, disturbing -- all words that characterize Sleeping Dogs . The Willow family -- Edward, Michelle, Jordan, Oliver, and Speck, the children; Griffin and Grace, the parents -- live on a farm which also houses a dilapidated trailer park. The family is ruthlessly controlled by Griffin, who has turned his wife into a non-person who sits and caresses her white porcelain tea pot. He also physically abuses his son Jordan. A visitor to the farm learns of the tragedies that are there -- one even more dreadful than physical abuse -- and threatens to make them public. The family needs to protect itself and sets out to do just that. The book, especially the last thirty pages, keeps the reader riveted. Hartnett takes on a powerful theme and subtly explodes the shocking truth found in some parts of our society. The book is appropriate for mature readers.
The ALAN Review John H. Bushman
Winter 1996 University of Kansas
The Last Safe Place on Earth by Richard Peck Censorship/Family Life
Delacorte, 1995. 161 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32052-3
When a knife fight break out in their children's junior high school, the Tobin family moves to Tranquility Lane in Walden Woods -- seemingly, the last safe place on earth. However, several incidents dispel this illusion: a babysitter terrifies the younger Tobin daughter by convincing her that Halloween is the devil's night; a drunken joyride culminates in death; drug dealers infest Founders Park; the school administration refuses to sanction an AIDS Awareness meeting during school hours; and the Religious Right launches a book-banning crusade against The Diary of a Young Girl and The Chocolate War .
Peck impeccably spins an absorbingly realistic story that will force high-school readers to question and examine their values, as well as the pernicious effects of censorship. Additionally, readers will identify with the humorous, insightful first-person narrator, sophomore Todd Tobin, as he discovers that there is no safe place -- anywhere.
The ALAN Review William R. Mollineaux
Winter 1996 Sedgwick Middle School
Hurwin, Davida Wills
A Time for Dancing
Reviewed by Jeanne Gerlach
Associate Professor of English and Education
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Trust and Betrayal
Reviewed by Charles R. Duke
Dean, Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Both Sides of Time
Reviewed by Betty Carter
School of Library and Information Studies
Texas Woman's University
Reviewed by Jeanne M. McGlinn
University of North Carolina, Asheville
Asheville, North Carolina
A Time For Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin Friendship/Death and Dying
Little, Brown, 1995. 257 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-316-38351-1
Samantha and Juliana, Sam and Jules, are best friends and have been for over half of their sixteen years. They take the same classes at school. They go to the same parties. They take dancing lessons at the same dance studio. They are inseparable. Then Jules learns she has "Diffuse histiocytic lymphoma" -- a type of cancer. This is a story about friendship, romance, and growth to awareness. But more importantly, it is a novel that looks candidly at adolescent struggles with death and dying. "Do you believe in life after death?" Jules asks Sam. Not only does Jules have to come to terms with the possibility of dying, but Sam has to help her do it. Thus, Sam is faced with the most difficult task of her young adult life. Can the girls' friendship survive under such pressure?
This was one of my favorite reads, and I believe that young adults in grades 9-12 will appreciate Hurwin's honest look at such a difficult topic.
The ALAN Review Jeanne Gerlach
Winter 1996 West Virginia University
Trust and Betrayal by Janet Bode Nonfiction/Friendship
Delacorte, 1995. 161 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32105-8
Eighteen adolescents talk about the need for a friend, someone who will listen, offer advice, and, most importantly, can be trusted. Their stories reveal a variety of experiences -- drugs, running away, being pregnant, joining gangs, getting into fights -- but throughout the interviews runs the common thread of needing to be accepted by their peers. What separates this collection of interviews from others is the emphasis upon friendship, and how each of the stories focuses on what friendship ought to mean. Interwoven throughout are comments from other adolescents, suggesting how they might have responded to a situation that is described in the interview. The stories are realistic, recorded in the voices of the teenagers themselves, and no pat solutions for the problems are offered. Suitable for mature students, ages 12 and above.
The ALAN Review Charles R. Duke
Winter 1996 Appalachian State University
Both Sides of Time by Caroline Cooney Time Travel/Romance
Delacorte, 1995. 210 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 0-385-32174-0
Annie Lawrence wants romance from her boyfriend, Sean. She wants the perfect marriage from her parents. She wants the pampered life of the idle rich. But dreams don't mirror reality. Sean worships cars rather than Annie. Her father dallies in an affair. And her self-sufficient, career-oriented future is all mapped out. Catapulted a century back in time, Annie finds her heart's desire: a rich, handsome suitor who loves and adores her. Alas, her new life revolves around a dark melodrama, peopled with dastardly villains and virginal victims. She also discovers that Victorian opulence masks its own set of societal problems, often paralleling contemporary ones. Cooney tirelessly points out these analogies, producing a book that doesn't completely satisfy as either a romance or a social treatise. Not as strong as her critically acclaimed single novels ( Driver's Ed ), nor as weak as her series fiction ( The Fog ), in literary terms this offering languishes between the two.
The ALAN Review Betty Carter
Winter 1996 Texas Woman's University
Dinah Forever by Claudia Mills Death/Friendship
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1995. 134 pp. $14.00 ISBN: 0-374-31788-7
Dinah Seabrooke thinks in absolutes. She plans to save postcards from her boyfriend, Nick Tribble, forever , and read them every day for the rest of her life. She especially wants to make a lasting impression in the seventh grade, to create "footprints on the sands of time." But then in her science class she comes up against an inevitable fact -- nothing lasts forever -- not even the sun. One day it, too, like other stars, will burn out. This existential fact sends Dinah into a tail spin -- what's the use of going on or doing anything if the possibility of forever doesn't exist?
Through the help of her parents, friends, and an 83-year-old neighbor, Dinah learns that there is value in doing what makes you feel the most "fully and truly alive." Mills creates a realistic portrait of Dinah and her world in this skillfully written novel which surprises at times with its poetic impact.
The ALAN Review Jeanne M. McGlinn
Winter 1996 University of North Carolina, Asheville
The Toll Bridge
Reviewed by Ted Hipple
Professor of Education
University of Tennessee
Carter, Alden R.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Reviewed by John Jacob
Lecturer in English
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kaplan
University of Central Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc
Reviewed by Joan F. Kaywell
University of South Florida
The Toll Bridge by Aidan Chambers Alienation/Identity
HarperCollins, 1995. 268 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-06-023599-3
A marvelous wordsmith and magical storyteller, English author Aidan Chambers has again written a compelling novel that sophisticated adolescents and their mentors will love. As in his previous books ( Breaktime , Dance on My Grave , and N.I.K.: Now I Know ), Chambers dazzles readers with exciting sentences and paragraphs that snap, crackle, and pop. He's especially talented in creating dialogue among witty teens who clearly cherish language as much as he does. In The Toll Bridge , protagonist Piers has left his overbearing family and girlfriend to go to a rural area and tend a toll bridge, living alone in an adjacent cottage. There he meets Tess and, later, the mysterious Adam, and this threesome becomes enmeshed in a drama that leaves them -- and readers -- more than a bit breathless. I recommend this book highly. It is splendid.
The ALAN Review Ted Hipple
Winter 1996 University of Tennessee
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Alden R. Carter Coming of Age/Survival
Scholastic, 1995. 213 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-48684-5
Family tradition dictates that Mark canoe, camp, and fish the Boundary Waters just like family members before him. Mark is not overly enthusiastic about this trip, partly because his cousin Randy is going, and Randy knows nothing about canoeing or camping. After early friction, the two get along until a bear destroys their food cache, which has Randy's insulin in it, and Mark's map-reading mistake gets their canoe smashed.
Carter is very good at presenting the relationship between two boys who barely know one another, but who both try to salvage moments of their trip together. Dialogue in particular is very realistic, as are the vulnerabilities that both do not want to reveal to one another. There are moments when the text seems overly idyllic in description, and Carter sees a need to present both boys as heroic. Still, the book is a page-turner, very fluid and realistic, and bound to join the rest of Carter's books as another ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
The ALAN Review John Jacob
Winter 1996 Northwestern University
Where's Home by Jonathan London Homelessness
Viking, Penguin, 1995. 89 pp. $13.99 ISBN: 0-670-86028-X
Fourteen-year-old Aaron and his father are in dire straits. Life in bucolic West Virginia is falling apart at the seams. Forced to move, they head to sunny and romantic San Francisco, hoping their luck will turn. Alas, life proves just as cruel. Work is scarce, and, without much money or shelter, the street becomes their home.
Using his wits to survive, Aaron speaks of the haunting loneliness and desperate measures that all homeless people endure. Only his "million dollar `magination" can help him weather his incomprehensible troubles. With two joys to comfort him -- a journal to capture his innermost thoughts, and the friendship of Maria, a girl that he meets -- Aaron speaks in an uncompromising tone about his life on the streets. This is an easy-to-read, but by no means easy-to-digest, realistic tale of one boy's tragedies and triumphs.
The ALAN Review Jeffrey Kaplan
Winter 1996 University of Central Florida
Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Nancy Garden Historical Fiction/War
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1995. 237 pp. $17.00 ISBN: 0-374-34476-0
Most people will recognize the author, Nancy Garden, by her ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults' title Annie on My Mind . Now, Garden has written a work of historical fiction, Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc , that has the potential of bringing her as much fame.
A fictional protagonist, Gabrielle, tells the story of Joan of Arc's celestial calling to remove the British King Henry VI and restore the French crown prince to the French throne. This well-researched novel tells of a peaceful "Dove's" dealing with a loss of a love and her questioning the necessity of ever using the "Sword." Readers will gain a much better understanding of the Hundred Years' War while gaining valuable insight into the lives of ordinary people who lived during the 15th century. History teachers should definitely be told about this novel.
The ALAN Review Joan F. Kaywell
Winter 1996 University of South Florida
Clark, Mary Higgins, ed.
Reviewed by June Harris
East Texas State University
Schinto, Jeanne, ed.
Show Me a Hero
Reviewed by Mike Angelotti
Professor of English Education
The University of Oklahoma
The Squared Circle
Reviewed by Alan M. McLeod
Professor of English Education
Virginia Commonwealth University
Reviewed by Jim Brewbaker
Professor of Education
Bad Behavior by Mary Higgins Clark, ed. Short Stories/Mystery
Harcourt Brace, 1995. 306 pp. $20.00 ISBN: 0-15-200179-4
This collection of twenty-two short stories was edited and is introduced by Clark on behalf of the International Association of Crime Writers. Writers in the collection include Lawrence Block, Sara Paretsky, Joyce Carol Oates, P. D. James, and others familiar to mystery-story readers. Some stories have been previously published; others are new in this collection. The stories are not uniformly appealing: they range from the deliciously chilling to the fairly pedestrian. Still, this collection is hard for a devoted mystery reader to put down and would be a fine addition to the library of any fan of the genre. Most of the stories involve young adult protagonists or participants although some do not. Classroom use of this book might be restricted by the sometimes graphic language, but there should be something here for everyone who appreciates a good thriller.
The ALAN Review June Harris
Winter 1996 East Texas State University
Show Me a Hero by Jeanne Schinto, ed. Short Stories/Sports
Persea Books, 1995. 265 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-89255-209-3 (pbk.)
This is no ordinary collection of sports short stories. It shoots for the soul of the athlete in all of us, female and male, old and young. It shoots for the soul of sport, major and minor. As participants in the actions, we learn about taking risks, making quick decisions, perseverance, and concentration. Make no mistake, the adventure, the action, the drama of the playing field are here, but as backdrop, not center stage. And the stories themselves push the edge of fiction writing. The mother and son playing in the same Minnesota Vikings backfield in the championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The blind distance runner. The sixty-year-old sculler. The obese swimmer who loses so much weight that she disappears. What Jeanne Schinto quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald in her introduction she tests in her book: "Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy." Definitely this is a book for the serious literature teacher's study. The subtlety and treatment of subject matter, however, suggest judicious choice for students. Oh, but there are some happy choices for the ready ones.
The ALAN Review Mike Angelotti
Winter 1996 The University of Oklahoma
The Squared Circle by James Bennett Sports
Scholastic, 1995. 288 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-48671-3
Sonny Youngblood seems to have it all -- star status as a freshman on his college basketball team, fraternity involvement, and popularity. Yet he finds he must study hard to stay eligible, and so approaches his cousin, a member of the faculty, for assistance. She reluctantly agrees to an independent study in which he helps with her art project. Through Sissy he discovers means of coping with a variety of problems, including the recruiting scandal breaking around his team, and accompanying questions about the role his Uncle Seth played in Sonny's selection for a college athletic scholarship.
The story moves along fairly quickly and is pitched at a high-school audience. Its focus on college basketball and the NCAA tournament should delight readers. A good novel for athletes and others who think that success in sports will solve most problems. Sonny's struggles carry an aura of reality.
The ALAN Review Alan M. McLeod
Winter 1996 Virginia Commonwealth University
Farm Team by Will Weaver Self Reliance/Sports
HarperCollins, 1995. 283 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-06-023588-8
Will Weaver's Farm Team is a stylistically solid, occasionally powerful, fast read. Thematically, though, Weaver attempts too much.
Billy Baggs, a fourteen-year old whose father is in jail, must run the family farm with Mavis, his mother. Billy rises to the challenge. Mavis decides that farm kids need a chance to play summer baseball; so she and Billy create a field. Before long, a team is formed out of a ragtag bunch that includes the stereotypical Aaron, a gifted Jewish boy, and two Mexican boys, sons of migrant workers. Skinner, Billy's dog, even gets into the act. A game between the farm team and townies concludes the story predictably.
Weaver's blend of serious and lighter themes almost works, though Farm Team almost reads like two pretty good books. Weaver, one hopes, will decide which story he wants to tell before his next novel. If he does, young readers have much to look forward to.
The ALAN Review Jim Brewbaker
Winter 1996 Columbus College