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Edge: Collected Stories by M.E. Kerr
We are very pleased with the critical response to M.E. Kerr’s collection of short stories Edge.
School Library Journal
Kerr, M.E. Edge: Collected Stories. 200p. ebook available. Open Road. Sept. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781504009911.
Gr 8 Up–This collection of 15 short stories is intriguing, thought-provoking, and surprising. Each tale is written from a teen’s perspective, and the settings range from the recent past to modern-day to both the near and distant future. Taken together, the selections address almost every area of a young person’s life, including dating, siblings, parental expectations, sexuality, and planning for the future. But they go beyond teen issues, exploring larger truths about loss, cruelty, race, bigotry, and war. The book ends with a personal history of the author and her own struggles, not only as an author but also as a gay woman. These tales are written in a compelling and readable style. VERDICT Although short story collections do not currently enjoy the popularity that full-length novels or series do, this book is one that almost any teen will connect with.–Tara Hixon, Piedmont High School, OK
“Expertly crafted, with enduring relevance.”
Family, honesty, and status emerge as themes in a collection of prolific author Kerr’s short stories for teens. A girl’s ne’er-do-well adopted brother returns to her as a ghost. A Holocaust survivor understands her lesbian granddaughter better than the girl’s mother fears. A school outcast visits an inmate at the town prison, pretending to be his son, and thinks he’s lucked into a fortune. Most stories here wer e originally published in the 1990s, but despite occasional dated preoccupations, the subject matter still feels fresh and the telling, crisp. Each piece is tautly constructed and economical, the longest clocking in at 16 pages. A couple are gently speculative, like wry opener “Do You Want My Opinion?” in which kissing and sex are engaged in casually, but philosophical conversation is intimate and risqué. Most, however, draw out subtle, everyday conflicts and experiences. As it’s been many years since Kerr has written actively for teens, more introductory material than the current plot-based teasers would have provided valuable context for readers new to her work. A biographical note at the end, however, complete with black-and-white photographs, gives readers background on Kerr’s life, career, and multiple pseudonyms. Expertly crafted, with enduring relevance. (Short stories. 12-18)
Issue: October 15, 2015
Edge: Collected Stories.
Kerr, M. E. (Author)
Sep 2015. 172 p. Open Road, paperback, $11.99. (9781504009911). Open Road, e-book,
Teens will find much in common with the characters in this collection of stories spanning back to 1984. Kerr’s finely crafted tales capture both real-life and otherworldly dilemmas in tones both earnest and satirical. The traditional teen love story is turned on its head in “Do You Want My Opinion?,” where sex is practically mandatory and sharing one’s innermost feelings taboo. Deep questions of inheritance plague the protagonist of “Like Father, Like Son” when a foul-mouthed kid comes to live with a family who doesn’t share his proclivities. Perhaps most haunting of all, “I Will Not Think of Maine” addresses the aftermath of love and death. Stories are told with the immediacy of youth but also with a slight cushion of reflection, just enough so that young readers can begin to appreciate the insight that distance brings. Educators should take careful note of this collection, as the issues raised by the resolution of their situations (or lack thereof) will get even the most reluctant readers chatting. Kerr’s unique characters are not easily left behind.
— Erin Downey Howerton
Blood on My Forehead: What I Know About Writing
From The New York Times , May 31, 1998:
“The popular writer uses examples from her novels and short
stories as well as incidents from her own life to illustrate a
sensible guide to writing, one adults might find as instructive
as students in the upper grades. The title comes from Gene
Fowler’s instruction: “Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring
at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your
Deliver Us From Evie
From Sunday Telegraph, December 3, 1995 :
“NEVER judge a book by its blurb – at least in the teenage
market, where it seems to be in publishers’ interests to disguise
good writing as rubbish. Take Deliver Us From Evie by M. E. Kerr
(Viking, pounds 8.99) whose back cover breathlessly pants “When
eighteen-year-old Evie falls in love with gorgeous Patsy Duff,
her parents tell her ‘it’s just a phase’. But Evie has
always known that she’s a dyke.” Difficult though it is to
sympathise with a writer who uses initials (V. V. Pretentious)
and whose last book was called Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! M. E.
Kerr deserves better. Set in farming country in the American
Mid-West, Evie’s story is told by her unjudgmental younger
brother, and is less about Evie and Patsy’s relationship (Queen
Victoria would be none the wiser for reading it) than Evie’s
family’s reaction to it. With sympathetic characters and balanced
prose Kerr never sensationalises her subject but keeps the reader
rapt. Don’t expect much seasonal good cheer amongst teen fare.”
From Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1987, By GLORIA MIKLOWITZ:
“The cover picture of “Fell” shows a surrealistic, desolate
landscape on which stand seven 7s and over which a young man in
formal attire floats, one foot entangled in the green stem of a
flower. Is this a fantasy, I wondered? But no. The flap copy
calls it a love story/suspense novel, first in a series. As a
longtime Kerr fan I could hardly wait to open the book and find
out what those symbols represented.
If you’re confused by the complex story line, so was I, at
first. To Kerr’s credit, clues are dropped throughout the book,
though readers might not catch them on one reading. However, the
story strains credulity and the Sevens plot complications seem
largely to introduce the suicide, which one supposes will be the
subject of the next book in the series.
Kerr fans will enjoy this book despite my criticisms because
the cast of characters is interesting, Fell is very likable, and
the dialogue is plentiful, bright, and often witty.”
From The Economist, December 23, 1978:
” Miss Kerr (a pseudonym) is pastmaster at what — for want of a better label — is called adolescent fiction. “Gentlehands” takes as its span that convenient period for the telescoping of the growing-up process in America: the long summer vacation. Boy [Buddy] meets girl “out of our class”: older, richer but not more mature. He takes her to see not his cop father but his superior grandfather, who ran out on his wife and Buddy’s mother when she was a child, and went back to Germany.
Grandfather is accused, in the local paper, of being an ex-concentration camp guard of
exceptional sadism, whose nickname came from his playing of an aria from Tosca, “I Dolci
Mani”, to the inmates.
Miss Kerr is particularly good at the compulsions of youth: Buddy knows how he is
behaving when he stands up his little brother at his girlfriend’s whim, but he is not a prig; he tries to buy him off, lies, makes excuses, like the rest of us. She is good, too, as the terror of an irresponsible action that cannot be cut short; Buddy’s drive home high on pot, but not too high to know he is not in control, is vividly well done. And the parents are neither saints nor sinners, sages nor fools: they are observed with perception, but not with the detached omniscience that turns too many adolescent heroes into wizened old men.”
“Hello,” I Lied
From The New York Times, August 3, 1997:
“Lang, a self-aware 17-year-old, is spending the summer in the
very fashionable Hamptons. He and his mother are living in the
caretaker’s cottage of an estate belonging to a reclusive rock
star, Ben Nevada. Lang becomes involved with a visiting French
teen-ager and Nevada himself. Fast-paced and sophisticated summer
From Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1997:
” Trust M.E. Kerr (Deliver Us From Evie, 1994, etc.) to put a new twist on an old story: ”I know that I’d always think of it as the summer that I loved a girl,” Lang, the narrator, concludes ruefully. But Lang is solidly and happily gay, although, unlike his lover, Alex, he can’t quite bring himself to be public about it. He moves with his mother to the caretaker’s cottage on a retired rock star’s Long Island estate, to ”help out, hide out, cool out, come out.” He finds himself saddled with an unwelcome duty when his employer enlists him as a ”safe” chaperone for Huguette, a long-dead band member’s daughter who has been hastily flown over from France to break up a teenage infatuation. Hanging out with Huguette, an Audrey Hepburn look-alike with cute, accented English, Lang not only gets a taste of life in a rarefied social stratum, but begins to develop strange — for him — feelings; meanwhile, as he nerves himself to come out to his school
friends, he pines for Alex, and on their infrequent dates, not only gets a taste of gay society, but experiences the gamut of public reactions.
Written in Kerr’s blithe style, this is an urbane story with a bit of an edge, a likably confused protagonist, and some deftly inserted information.”
I Stay Near You
From The Washington Post, May 12, 1985:
“YOUNG ADULTS, teenagers, whatever you want to call them
(“older children” may be the best term) — they’re probably the
hardest group of readers to snag, and the easiest to lose halfway
through a book. Generally they’re impatient, jittering to get on
with their real lives. And the mere sound of an adult voice, even
if it’s only on paper, tends to make them sigh and roll their
The writer hoping to attract these readers has two choices.
The first is to try to enter their world — present it to them so
vividly that they will sit up and take notice. The second is to
pull them out of that world, using characters of the appropriate
age but making no further allowances, trusting that effective
writing and a strong plot alone will be enough to snare them.
M. E. Kerr has proved a good many times over (in books like
Him She Loves? and Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!) her skill in
entering young people’s worlds, but her latest offering takes a
slightly more distant stance. I Stay Near You is a novel in the
form of three stories. The first story, which is set in the
1940s, describes a love affair between the town’s rich boy and a
very poor, very strange girl named Mildred. The boy is killed in
the Second World War and Mildred, who is pregnant with his child,
marries someone else. In the second story, which takes place in
the ’60s, Mildred’s son Vincent falls in love with an unsavory
girl who eventually breaks his heart. And in the third story,
Vincent’s son Powell reflects upon his father — now a
self-centered, middle-aged rock star — and comes to some
conclusions about his own life.
An unsuitable romance is always interesting, and this one is
no exception. But it’s so thoroughly defeated — and defeated so
early in the book — that you wonder if teenaged readers might
drift away after the first of the stories. Moreover, there’s
something chilly and remote about the two lovers. As always,
though, M.E. Kerr’s crisp writing style is flawless, and she
successfully avoids that gee-whiz tone so common to writers of
young adult books.”
From The New York Times, May 17, 1981, By MARILYN KAYE:
“In several previous books, M. E. Kerr has shown an interest
in the underlying passions of individuals, usually secondary
characters, with physical or emotional idiosyncracies. In
”Little Little” these characters take center stage as Miss Kerr
investigates the relationship between three dwarfs: Sydney
Cinnamon, an orphaned hump-backed 17-year-old who has achieved a
certain fame as ”The Roach” in commercials for an exterminating
company; Little Little La Belle, also 17, the perfectly
proportioned daughter of wealthy parents; and Knox Lionel (a.k.a.
”Opportunity” Knox and the ”Little Lion”), a 20-year-old
hustler and evangelical preacher who is going to be affianced to
Little Little. The story revolves around Sydney’s efforts to
secure the affections of the pretty heiress despite her parents’
Sydney and Little Little share the narration in alternating
chapters, a device Miss Kerr has employed before and which is
nicely conducive to a tale of romance. And while this is
essentially a love story, the author gently weaves into the plot
the general anguish and specific problems intrinsically bound to
a minority world. But the pain, however verbalized or
demonstrated, remains implicit. The work goes beyond an account
of ”what it’s like to be a dwarf”; it remains a reality-based
story of individuals.
Despite the first-person narrative, M.E. Kerr distances the
reader from the work through limited character revelation, and
her restraint discourages familiarity. In this way, she prevents
the novel from becoming a shallow plea for tolerance. All these
characters require is respect.
There is, of course, as in all of Miss Kerr’s work, humor and
an element of the absurd. Both Sydney’s and Knox’s occupations
lend themselves to a controlled satire. Less restrained, however,
is the author’s portrayal of Little Little’s parents; a
well-meaning but rather stupid father, and a fluttering, silly
mother who writes inane verse for the local newspaper and checks
out other dwarfs to ascertain if they’re ”p.f.” -perfectly
formed. In their persistent efforts to uncover euphemisms for
everything from their daughter’s condition to bodily functions,
they move dangerously close to becoming caricatures.
There are other occasional problems. Every now and then one of
the protagonists will toss out a vague, poorly disguised
throwaway line that is riddled with portent and screams of
significance. But for the most part, the author’s tone throughout
the work blends a matter-offact nonchalance with a wry, mildly
sardonic humor that is poignant without being sentimental. In the
end, the readers is presented with a set of engaging
personalities, an unusual perspective, and an entertaining,
tender romance that offers both technical strength and a low-key
ME ME ME ME ME: Not a Novel
From The New York Times, May 22, 1983, By JOYCE MILTON:
“When Marijane Meaker, who writes under the name of M.E. Kerr,
was growing up in a small upstate New York town, her mother
missed no opportunity to warn her that ”there isn’t a female
comedian alive who’s happy.” Fortunately, she never paid her
mother the slightest attention. She went right on being funny
and, after establishing her career as a writer with a series of
suspense novels under the pseudonym Vin Packer, she proceeded, as
M.E. Kerr, to produce nine highly successful young adult novels
about the heartbreaking comedy of American adolescence.
Now, in this autobiographical memoir, Miss Kerr unveils a
deliciously wicked sense of humor, reminiscent in style, and
occasionally in content, of Jessica Mitford’s work. While still
in high school in the early 1940’s, Miss Kerr tells us, she
contrived to pep up a deadly dull romance with the local funeral
director’s son by helping another couple to elope in the cutaway
station wagon that normally carried floral tributes to
grave-sites. Shipped off to a highly proper girls’ boarding
school in Virginia, she showed her rebellious nature by writing
to Earl Browder, head of the American Communist Party, informing
him that ”many of the girls were interested in joining,” thus
calling down on the school post office a flood of what the
headmistress called ”tawdry” mail.
These reminiscences are primarily addressed to fans of Miss
Kerr’s novels who will no doubt enjoy meeting the real-life
models for many of her offbeat characters. (One is hardly
surprised to learn that the truth is often more bizarre than
fiction, but in this case it is usually more poignant as well
since Miss Kerr freely admits that some of these individuals were
the victims of her unstoppable writer’s drive to know everyone’s
As for the rest of you, don’t let the regrettable title put
you off; this book offers a satisfying if brief encounter with a
humorist whose delight in poking fun at the trappings of
authority is unmarred by either self-hatred or pettiness toward
From Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1986, By RICHARD PECK:
“M. E. Kerr has a genius for striding up on her readers’ blind
sides and delivering the unexpected. She was doing it as long ago
as 1972 with “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack,” which had nothing to do
with drugs. She’s done it again in “Night Kites,” her most
It’s about the rapport between two brothers separated by a
10-year age difference, and a secret. But it begins with the
younger brother, 17-year-old Erick Rudd, in a situation familiar
enough to lure the most traditional young reader.
There’s enough for a novel here, but at the moment of his
sexual awakening, Erick learns that the older brother he
idolizes, Pete, is coming home to die, of AIDS.
This story stands beside Judith Guest’s “Ordinary People,”
another chronicle of unqualified disaster striking a family
dedicated to unexamined values and a respectable facade. ” ‘How
many times have you heard Mom say we were the perfect family?’ ”
Pete somberly asks Erick.
Too typically, the family has never acknowledged the son’s
homosexuality until he’s dying. The parents struggle in greater
pain than some young readers will notice, for they suffer the
ultimate parental tragedy; they can preserve neither their
illusions nor their son. But the burden of this beautiful book
rests in the bonding between these brothers.
Erick finds he can’t tell Pete about his life, “The
little-brother-in-the-throes-of-first-passion bit, while (Pete)
was trying not to puke after his weekly chemotherapy, writing his
will, staffing an AIDS hotline in New York (on) weekends,
listening to one horror story after the other.”
But eventually, they manage to re-establish the old links
between them and forge new ones for the time they have left.
Erick’s story is dramatized, and Pete’s is mainly preached,
but then the author has a lot of hard information to convey to
readers who will have heard little of it before.
Would the book have been stronger, more straightforward if the
AIDS victim had been of high school age? Possibly. And harder to
pull off, too. Adolescents are even quicker than the rest of us
to practice their tolerance at a safe distance. Perhaps “Night
Kites” will smooth the way for another novel that reaches young
readers where they live.
The suggested reader age given is 12 and up. Way up, let’s
hope. This is a novel to be shared with adults, with families
like the Rudds who have to face a tragedy that couldn’t possibly
happen to people like them.
From The New York Times, August 4, 1991:
” As a young teen-ager,” writes Edmund White, “I looked
desperately for things to read . . . that might confirm an
identity I was unhappily piecing together” (“Out of the Closet,
Onto the Bookshelf,” June 16). That situation has happily
changed. Writers of adolescent literature, a genre that hardly
existed when White was a student, have included gay characters in
several recent books; a partial list would include a gay father
in “Jack,” by A. M. Homes, a gay uncle in “The Arizona Kid,” by
Ron Koertge, and a gay brother with AIDS in “Night Kites,” by M.
E. Kerr. In “Hey, Dollface,” by Deborah Hautzig, and “Annie on My
Mind,” by Nancy Garden, the teen-age protagonists struggle to
understand lesbian attractions to their friends.
These books can demonstrate to an anxious adolescent that he
or she isn’t “the only one,” and, in classrooms where the word
“faggot” is still used as an insult, they can show straight
adolescents that homosexuality is an ordinary fact of life.
Characters in these novels contend with confusion, ignorance and
prejudice. In the context of a multicultural literature program,
both straight and gay teen-agers can learn, over time, to
appreciate difference in others.”
Slap Your Sides
October 2001 Horn Book
In a novel set on the WWII homefront, Jubal Shoemaker and his family worship
as Quakers in their small Pennsylvania town. Jubal’s oldest brother Bud’s
decision to register as a conscientious objector reverberates throughout the
town, as other families send their boys off to fight the war. When customers
stop coming to the Shoemakers’ department store and someone paints slurs on
the store window, Jubal’s father descends into bitter misery. One night,
Jubal catches the vandal in the act…. [A]s in other works, the author presents complex
moral issues without passing judgment, allowing readers to consider matters
for themselves. The many voices in the novel offer various perspectives of
the conflict, and Kerr evokes the wartime setting with numerous references
to contemporary songs, films, and slogans; gas and food rationing; and
entertainment for the servicemen at the “Side Door Canteen.” Jubal’s earnest
quest to define himself is solidly placed within a year of turbulence for
his family, a particular experience of the war infrequently portrayed. L.A.
October 2001 Booklist
As a Quaker during WWII, teenager Jubal Shoemaker is a pacifist: “If a war comes, I will do everything to oppose it… So help me God.” The more he prays about it, the surer he is. When it’s time for him to be conscripted, he intends to follow his older brother Bud as a conscientious objector. But it’s hard in their small Pennsylvania town to be against the war when patriotism is fervent. … The ideas are gripping, not only because Kerr is fair to all sides but also because the characters are complicated, arguing with themselves and each other: When it comes to killing civilians, aren’t we as guilty as they are? Despite himself, Jubal cries when he hears the patriotic songs. His Quaker dad isn’t nearly as strong a pacifist as his wife; the war breaks them both. And the
fervent antiwar crusaders aren’t particularly likable. The story’s shocking ending says it all.-Hazel Rochman
Review in the 9/01 issue of Kliatt.
The title is the usual witty one from Kerr, but otherwise this is a
straightforward, serious work of historical fiction. It is set during WW II,
in Pennsylvania, as a Quaker family faces the realities of being
conscientious objectors. There are three sons in the family, and the
youngest son, Jubal, tells the story. The oldest son, Bud, has chosen to be
a pacifist to the ex-tent that he will have no part in the war effort, and
he is put to work in a mental hospital where he gets no real salary for
doing excruciatingly difficult work. He endures this, telling his brothers
about the reality of the situation without complaining, but it means that
back home their father’s department store loses most of its business. Even
in a town with Quakers and Mennonites, feelings run high against pacifists
as other local boys are fighting and dying in the war. …
Jubal watches all this go on in his family over the course of the war, from
1942 to 1945, and he is concerned, but he is also somewhat obsessed by his
relationship with Dana, a neighbor girl whose older brothers are fighting
overseas. The families had been friends before the war divided them, but now
Dana and Jubal have to sneak out to be together-they ride horses on Saturday
afternoons at the farm where Jubal works. …
Kerr always makes her readers think seriously, and here she focuses on
pacifism during a popular war, forcing readers to wonder what they would do
when faced with evil. She conveys the bravery of those few who do stand firm
as conscientious objectors, describing the harassment COs faced in WW
lI-including assaults and economic ruin. The broth-ers-Bud, Tommy, and
Jubalare memorable characters, each one believable and sympathetic. None is
portrayed as saintly: each has plenty of human foibles, which makes the
three all the more real. This is an unexpected book by Kerr; it tells an
important story of adolescents struggling with their own weaknesses during
difficult times. Claire Rosser, KLIATT
From Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2001
Even without the influence of recent events, Kerr’s hard-hitting WWII novel would sweep
readers up in its urgency. Jubal Shoemaker, the 13-year-old youngest son of a Pennsylvania Quaker family, admires his oldest brother, Bud, for adhering to his antiwar convictions and registering as a conscientious objector despite ever-increasing hostility from neighbors in Jubal’s small town, from residents near the facilities where Bud is sent to work, and even from some relatives. Aunt Lizzie, for example, married to a Jewish artist and living in Greenwich Village, sends Bud terse notes like, “Kiss the Jews of Greece good-bye!” Kids at Jubal’s Quaker school wonder about the limits of pacifism: what if they had the opportunity to take the life of Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo? Would it really be wrong to register as a noncombatant serviceman and be a medic? As the war escalates, conflicting opinions tug Jubal’s family in different directions….Kerr does not shy away from difficult questions, nor does she resolve them for readers. Instead, she pulls the rug from under Jubal in a shocking climax, and the abruptness of the
denouement intensifies its impact. This morally challenging novel is as memorable
as any of Kerr’s work.
Snakes Don’t Miss Their Mothers
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6-“Good-bye Placido” is a cry the one-eyed Siamese cat has heard before as his cycle of adoption from and return to a shelter begins yet again. He leaves behind an assortment of animals, including Marshall, the king snake; Goldie, a Lab separated from her owners; Catherine, a retired greyhound; and Irving, an aging part-German shorthair pointer, all of whom offer an opinion on the difficult cat’s chances of finding a permanent home. During the Christmas holidays, Placido surprises everyone by ingratiating himself with his new owners, a child performer and her widowed father, and settles in nicely on their sailboat; Catherine is adopted, and Goldie is reunited with her family, who also adopt Marshall, the snake who never knew his mother. Only Irving is left at Critters where he curls up contentedly on his cot with his cedar pillow. This light, upbeat tale reflects the hopes and dreams of discarded animals. Good and evil live side by side, from the malevolent dogcatcher, Percival Uttergone, to the dedicated volunteers who work at Critters. The talking animals are more developed than the humans, but it all adds up to an upbeat reading experience.
Pam Spencer Holley, Young Adult Literature Specialist, Virginia Beach, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Snakes Don’t Miss Their Mothers
Gr. 4-6. The animals at Critters shelter and the humans who interact with them are the stars of this novel, and therein rests the problem. There are too many characters (one of whom changes names three times!) and too many story lines; more editing would have definitely helped. Too bad, because there are some very good things here, as well. Kids will respond to the book’s humor and appealing talking animals–Marshall the cranky snake; Irving the patient mixed-breed dog who never gets adopted; Placido the Siamese cat who finally finds a home. The human characters are somewhat less successsful. The relationship between Jimmie and Sun Lily, two girls who adopt animals and become friends, is nice, but the story line about Jimmie’s career in show business never rings true. In addition, Sun Lily has two mothers (in the roster of characters, both are simply identified as volunteers at Critters), an element that may puzzle some children. Kerr still writes better than most, so larger libraries will probably want this, warts and all. Ilene Cooper
Copyright ?American Library Association. All rights reserved
Snakes Don’t Miss Their Mothers
From Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2003.
What do a retired race dog, a king snake, a one-eyed Siamese and a friendly yellow Lab have in common? All are abandoned or lost pets who have landed at Critters, an animal shelter in the Hamptons (NY), run by the compassionate Mrs. Splinter. Offering both animal, reptilian and human poinst of view, Kerr’s (Slap Your Sides) light novel mixes some poignant moments with slapstick comedy. As Christmas approaches, Placido the cat gets adopted, and Catherine the greyhound goes home with a volunteer for the holidays. Soon after, Labrador Rex (alias Goldie) runs off from the shelter, not knowing that his beloved missing family is coming to fetch him. The furry friends find themselves in some dangerous predicaments (Placido falls into the ocean and the evil dogcatcher almost gets his paws on Rex), but things end well for al, including the brooding, left-behind snake, who is sure no human being will ever want him for a pet. The book’s frequent shifts in focus and complicated web of subplots may overwhelm some youngsters. Even so, the members of Kerr’s imaginative menagerie are sure to wiggle, wag and worm their way into readers’ hearts. Ages 8-12 (Oct.)
Snakes Don’t Miss Their Mothers
From Kirkus Reviews, 10/1/03.
Here’s the book for readers who’ve wondered what goes on among the denizens of an animal shelter – and not the human ones. They’re told that the animals, be they dogs, cats, iguanas, snakes, or whatever, speak to each other, in a presumably ur-animal tongue, and watch out for each other while the various breeds of dogs know to be wary of the town’s dastardly, evil dogcatcher. Mostly, though, and heartbreakingly, they wait to be adopted. In Kerr’s story, set in the Hamptons on Long Island, they await the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, while one particular canine longs to find his owner. The creatures are appealing and have distinct personalities. Humans don’t fare as well; most are uninteresting and not fully realized, and the subplot with the child actress/dancer seems superfluous (though she does adopt a really feisty cat whom no one had ever seemed to want). These critters (also the name of the shelter) and their antics should keep young animal lovers happy and occupied.
Someone Like Summer
Kerr, M. E. Someone Like Summer. HarperTeen, 2007. 272p. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-114099-6.
For Annabel, it is love at first sight. Esteban is handsome, athletic, and talented. She follows him from the soccer field to the club where he sings nightly. At first, Esteban is shy around Annabel. After all, he works for her father’s construction business. But Esteban and Annabel are soon together whenever they can find time to be alone. Annabel’s father and her friends think that this relationship is doomed. So does Esteban’s older sister and his friends. The romance is complicated even further by Esteban’s status as an undocumented worker. Despite the fact that her father employs illegal workers, he is still adamant that Annabel have nothing to do with Esteban. There are others in town who believe that all the immigrants should be swept out of their housing and returned to their countries of origin.
Never one to shy away from tough topics, Kerr tackles prejudice, racism, and immigration in her latest novel. Annabel and Esteban are contemporary Romeo and Juliet characters; their story destined to become a tragedy. In addition, Kerr explores the various feelings about the immigrants who have come to America in search of work. Their exploitation at the hands of employers and their mercy at the hands of unscrupulous business people fuel the despair that can turn quickly to anger. Rather than offering easy solutions, though, Kerr’s novel is open-ended. Esteban and Annabel are separated. Hope, however, always holds out the promise that the two might be reunited in the future.-Teri S. Lesesne.
Someone Like Summer
Kliatt Review July 2007 for Someone Like Summer:
Starred Booklist Review 2007 for Someone Like Summer:
Someone Like Summer
Publishers Weekly Review 2007 for Someone Like Summer:
Someone Like Summer
HarperTempest, $15.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-114099-0
Kerr (Your Eyes in Stars) gives a sensitive rendering of a biracial romance in this timely novel about a white teen? infatuation with an illegal immigrant. Understated yet emotionally charged prose expresses 17-year-old Annabel Brown? initial attraction to Esteban Santiago as she watches him play soccer and listens to him sing at a local night club. Their first few encounters are blissful, but complications soon arise due to their families mutual disapproval. Esteban? older sister, Gioconda, calls Annabel a ?hite whore and Annabel? father, who runs a construction company, views Esteban with as little regard as he does other ?uchacho laborers, especially when Esteban bungles a roofing job when substituting for one of Mr. Brown? workers. Forbidden to date Esteban or even talk to him on the phone, Annabel meets him secretly, but as with most Romeo and Juliet-type tales, their relationship cannot withstand social pressures and prejudice. Showcasing the tension created by resentments and fear of that which is different, the author pointedly conveys the plight of immigrants and the ineffectiveness of government policies. Although Annabel is heartbroken when Esteban joins the army as a means to obtain a green card, she gains deep respect and affection for another culture and for new immigrants striving to attain the American dream. Ages 12-up. (July)
What Became of Her?
From Publishers Weekly, April 24, 200
Rosalind Slaymaster has returned to her hometown of Serenity, PA with a chip on her shoulder “the size of Apollo 11.” Now the richest woman in Bucks County, she’s ruffling feathers by renovating the town’s 150-year-old amusement park, under the the condition that it be renamed after her deceased father. After 16-year-old E.C. (Edgar Cayce) Tobbit (whose protect button “buzzed for deer done out of their woods by developers, dogs tied to trees under the hot sun… and occasionally for a two-footed wretch as well”) and his mother dine with the wealthy widow, he takes Slaymaster’s gawky, unpopular adoptive niece, Julie, under his wing and finds himself unwittingly drawn into her aunt’s deeply troubled childhood. Kerr (Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!; Deliver Us From Evie) has long championed the outsider in her novels and, in her latest, offers a level of depth and sophistication found in the best of her fiction. After E.C. introduces Julie to his newfound friend, the roguish …Neal, the trio soon forms a tight bond. … Told
primarily in E.C.’s homespun first-person narrative, the novel breaks mid-story to Rosalind’s …childhood diary, illuminating the enigmatic character’s motivation and her unseemly tie to her inanimate dummy, Peale – a gift from her dead husband. Kerr, with a masterful, invisible hand, quietly adds layers of meaning to a seductive, psychologically
What I Really Think of You
From The New York Times, June 5, 1983:
” This novel for readers aged 12 to 15 chronicles a fragile relationship between 16-year-old Opal Ringer, the daughter of a poor, devout Pentecostal preacher, and Jesse Pegler, also 16, the son of a successful television evangelist. M.E. Kerr ”neatly places an incipient romance against the backdrop of evangelism and allows that subject to permeate – but not overwhelm – her story,” our reviewer, Marilyn Kaye, said.”
Your Eyes in Stars
From Booklist, December 2005:
*Starred Review* Gr. 8-12.” From the award-winning Gentlehands (1978), in which a teen discovers that his beloved grandfather was a Nazi, to Slap Your Sides (2001), about a teen struggling with his pacifist convictions, Kerr’s historical fiction moves beyond simplistic divisions of friends and enemies. Her latest haunting novel, set in a small town in upstate New York during the Depression, is told from the perspective of teen characters and explores complex relationships–this time between Germans and Americans, Jews and gentiles. Fourteen-year-old Jessica, the daughter of the local prison’s benevolent chief, becomes friends with new neighbor and classmate, Elisa, who is from Germany. While Jessica’s mother is glad the newcomers are not Jews, who would bring down property values, Elisa’s elitist mother won’t even mix with the locals. Interwoven with Jessica’s immediate, first-person narrative are stories of a young wrongfully convicted prisoner, a rich businessman bankrupted by the Depression, and an aristocratic, assimilated Jewish family that learns some shocking news. When Elisa returns to Germany, at first her letters are warm, but then they change. It’s hard not to wonder if she has joined the Hitler Youth. Although there is a lot going on, secrets, intimate and political, drive the plot, expanding the warm friendship and coming-of-age story to reveal big issues of racism, class, and patriotism.” Hazel Rochman
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr (Gr 8 Up):
From School Library Journal, January 2006:
“In 1934, teenaged Jessie lives in a small upstate New York town where her father is the warden in the same prison. Her mother is a bit of a social climber, while her father has allowed himself to become overly friendly with a prisoner, Slater, a young Southerner with a heartbreaking background and in a keen musical talent. Jessie is pleasantly surprised when the daughter of a German professor who has moved into the neighborhood makes direct appeals for friendship. So unfolds the first section of this deceptively straightforward but sophisticated and engrossing novel. Jessie’s friendship with Elisa is interrupted when the Stadlers abruptly return to Germany…an event that happens at the same that Slater is killed in a situation that makes it appear that he murdered a local man. Jessie and Elisa correspond during the next few years, their letters – as well as those from their acquaintance – making up the latter portion of the novel. Years later, in 1946, Jessie learns what really happened to Elisa. Kerr weaves an authentic story in which characters can know only so much at any given moment of their lives, and actually misunderstand much of what they know. The period and the place are re-created with excellent detail. Kerr doesn’t have to make Jessie pronounce the big questions because she does such a thorough job of showing that they should be every reader’s questions: what is really going on, both under our noses and inside the lives of people we care about but cannot know completely?” – Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library,CA
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr (12+):
From Kirkus Reviews, January 1 ,2006:
“A broad-ranging, somewhat unfocused novel on a worthy topic – how small errors in judgment can snowball to disaster – by a YA master. Jessie Myrers, daughter of a small-town New York prison warden, is an outcast; her older brothe ignores her, her mother dislikes her and J.J. Joy and the local in-girls think she’s tacky. When Elisa, a German whose father teaches at Cornell, comes to town, Jessie finds happiness in their friendship despite both their mothers’ disapproval of foreigners. Together the girls conceive a temporary crush on Slater Carr, a prisoner lifer and gifted musician, whom Jessie’s father allows special privileges. Carr escapes and accidentally kills J.J.’s father (just as he, ruined by the Depression, was about to commit suicide), which prompts Elisa’s family to return to Hitler’s Germany. The complicated plot swerves wildly, so many pieces converge that some feel fragmentary. Written predominantly from Jessie’s point-of-view, the story switches to a third-person review of Slater’s life, letters to Slater from an old friend, and then, in Part Two, letters back and forth from Germany. Finding a cohesive single voice to tell this story wouldn’t have been easy, but would have made its impact stronger.”
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr:
Excerpt from Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), January 10, 2006 Tuesday
Tales for young adults that will give you chills
by Sherri Winston
“Veteran author M.E. Kerr presents a fascinating array of characters in her latest novel. Not only is the bleak, almost colorless landscape an integral player in Kerr’s book, but the era is as well.
Told from multiple viewpoints, we first meet Jessie Myrer as she begins a friendship with her new classmate, Elisa Stadler, from Germany. With the story set against the backdrop of the Depression, allusions to Hitler and war swell just below the surface.
Now add to that Jessie’s fascination with murderers and gangsters, her father being a warden at the county’s biggest landmark on Retribution Hill — a prison — and a killer allowed to play his bugle over the loudspeaker so the whole town can hear it and what you get is a slow-burn novel with explosive results.”
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr:
Excerpt from CHILDREN’S CORNER
By Mary Harris Russell. Mary Harris Russell, who teaches English at Indiana University Northwest, reviews children’s books each week for the Tribune
Published January 8, 2006
“It’s 1934. Jessie’s father is warden of a prison in upstate New York. Most other places they’ve lived, that has made her family top of the social heap, but not here, and that’s hard for her mother to bear. Jessie’s father is sure that his new inmate, Slater Carr, will lead the prison band to a championship, because what else could he have to care about? Elisa, a German girl whose father is studying at nearby Cornell University, becomes Jessie’s friend, and they share crushes on local boys and on gangster John Dillinger. When Elisa and her father return to Germany for her grandmother, Elisa and Jessie correspond. Nothing is as simple as it looks, and it takes years before the final truths emerge. M.E. Kerr does not let history override character de-velopment. Elisa and Jessie are believable high school freshmen.”
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr (12-17):
From Publishers Weekly, January 16, 2006
STARRED REVIEW: “Kerr’s (Gentlehands ) eminently readable novel set during the Depression almost feels like two books in one. Narrated by 14-year-old Jessie Myrer, the daughter of a prison warden (she dubs him a “benevolent dictator”), the first part chronicles her blossoming friendship with a new neighbor, Elisa Stadler, whose family has moved from Germany to Cayuta, N.Y., for her father’s professorship at Cornell. While Jessie shares with Elisa her obsession with outlaws (she has a poster of John Dillinger on her wall), Elisa tells her new American friend about “this new leader, Hitler, [who] was gaining popularity in Germany.” As she has in the past, Kerr leavens the dark events of the era with humor. The teen protagonists become fixated on a new prisoner, Slater Carr, whose talents on the trumpet may well win the prison band their first Black Baa (the Bands Behind Bars Annual Award). But things go horribly awry one day, when Carr escapes and one citizen winds up dead, prompting Elisa’s family’s return to Europe. The balance of the novel unfolds through letters exchanged between the teens. Readers may feel they hardly recognize Elisa when she joins the League of German Girls, but the author delivers some surprising twists. Kerr explores issues of anti-Semitism, classism and capital punishment through the eyes of ordinary people, and demonstrates that taking a stand on the small things can mean the difference between justice and apathy.”
Copyright ? 1997-2005 Reed Business Information
Remembering my dear friend and talented author, M. E. Kerr today. I knew her first as M. E. Kerr or…