Life is Funny

E. R. Frank, Author DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley) $19.99 (263p) ISBN 978-0-7894-2634-5
Eleven kids with distinct voices and individual struggles narrate Frank's impressive debut novel, yet each of the interlocking stories springs to life with tender details. The book follows a loosely connected group of Brooklyn students over a seven-year period. The author initially introduces a few characters in a kind of pastiche, then renders them in fuller portraits, such as Keisha, who reveals that her brother is ""touching me on my privacy every night"" and, in a chapter four years later, experiences a healthy relationship with a peer. Other characters deal with physically abusive or absent parents, an unwanted pregnancy or a friend's suicide, but as the title indicates, each tale is tempered by humor. Readers will empathize with their struggles, but more than that, they will be inspired by the strength of their spirits and their willingness to love. Eric, another character introduced in a kind of broad brushstroke at the beginning, metamorphoses in one of the novel's most memorable stories. His mother is a drug addict, and he becomes the caretaker for his little brother, Mickey (""He tell all the little bugs he see at school he don't need no daddy 'cause he gots me,"" says Eric). The brothers reappear in the last chapter, narrated by their new foster-sister, Linnette, who calls Eric a ""hatchet murder face,"" intimidated by his bottled-up anger. When he literally reaches out to her at the end, she delicately describes her reaction as ""my voice high and melting, my insides all unfrozen."" The language is gritty, and some of the story lines will be intense for young readers, but this is ultimately an uplifting book about resilience, loyalty and courage. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-14-230083-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-4558-5925-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-4558-5831-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-4558-6019-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-24828-0
Prebound-Glued - 272 pages - 978-0-613-88345-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-4558-5737-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-0964-3
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-4814-3164-4
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-4814-3165-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5226-0963-6
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4814-3163-7
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