Kin Platt 1911–
American novelist and cartoonist.
Platt writes novels for young adults that range from rollicking adventure stories to introspective portrayals of troubled teenagers. In one of his earliest novels, Sinbad and Me, Platt follows the adventures of his protagonist, Steven Forrester, and Steve's bulldog, Sinbad. Full of rousing action, treasure hunts, and secret codes, Sinbad and Me won the 1967 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for juvenile mystery.
Platt has also written several novels about emotionally troubled young adults. The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear depicts the anxieties of a schizophrenic; Hey, Dummy is the story of Neil Comstock and Alan, the mentally retarded boy Neil calls "Dummy." Hey, Dummy follows the breakdown of Neil's ignorance and the friendship that evolves out of his eventual acceptance of Alan's handicap. Platt's series of "Chloris" books chronicle a young girl's attempt to deal with her parents' divorce, her mother's dating and remarriage, and her father's suicide.
Platt has been attacked for the unconventional subject matter of some of his novels. Perhaps his most controversial book is Headman, which Robert Berkvist has called a novel about "growing up dead in the … ghettos of Los Angeles." Critics have disputed Platt's use of violence and, especially, his casual use of foul language in this book. To Platt, this is reality. He has written: "The future I see for my own work is an ever widening and deepening spiral to get the most out of myself and my readers…. There is always resistance to new ideas, enlightening concepts, or attacks on societal structures, but at times some will be permitted to filter through and reach and hopefully influence our growing audience."
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, rev. ed. and Something about the Author, Vol. 21.)
The moral of Kin Platt's slightly wacky thriller, "The Blue Man," seems to be that any red-blooded American teen-ager is bound to be more than a match for any blue-bodied whatsit that might choose to drop in from the Milky Way or from that house down the street (the one where the shades are always drawn). Another moral, this one for authors, is that when you trot out a villain with a lovely cerulean complexion, your explanation had better be good. Unfortunately, after Mr. Platt has introduced his blue bully-boy and allowed him to strike down the favorite uncle of our hero, Steve Forrester, there isn't much left except The Chase. Steve plunges off in pursuit of the fellow (or things) and pretty soon there isn't a lawman from Maine to New York who needs to be convinced that it's true what they say about the younger generation. Readers who take to Steve, a sort of whole-wheat Holden Caulfield, probably won't mind the trip or the dénouement.
Robert Berkvist, "Visiting Villain," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1961 by The New York Times Company: reprinted by permission), September 24, 1961, p. 40.
(The entire section is 190 words.)
Miriam S. Mathes
Written in short, choppy, ungrammatical schoolboy vernacular by a boy who describes himself as "too old for camp and too young for anything good," [The Blue Man] is a wild yarn about a murderer, bright blue in appearance, and the boy's chase to apprehend him. The vernacular is so exaggerated and details of the plot so fantastic that even with the final more or less plausible explanation, the book cannot be recommended for purchase.
Miriam S. Mathes, in her review of "The Blue Man," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the November, 1961 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation: copyright © 1961). Vol. 8, No. 3, November, 1961, p. 54.
(The entire section is 116 words.)
Virginia Kirkus' Service
[Platt] has been a syndicated cartoonist and a writer for some of the best known comedians, and the narration [in Sinbad and Me] is consistently lively and imaginative. Unfortunately, however, there's a little too much of too many good things here, and Steve's long-winded spouting on the subject of old houses (his major interest) drags the story out to unnecessary length. The whole thing is wildly illogical—and readers will like it that way.
A review of "Sinbad and Me," in Virginia Kirkus' Service (copyright © 1966 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXIV, No. 13, July 1, 1966, p. 630.
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[Sinbad and Me] is a mystery story with character! It's breezy, funny, brash, clever, and frightening in turn. There are a number of puzzles all tied up in one good solution, and though it may sound as if the author has tried to work in every time-tested gimmick, the book doesn't sound tired and old-hat. It's fast moving!
There are all of these familiar elements—wonderful dog, pirate treasure, secret panels, caves, codes, ciphers, gamblers, family feuds, counterfeiting, old-world superstitions, haunted house, unsolved murder, missing map, invisible ink, and more.
But the young hero is not typical. For one thing, his hobby is old houses and antiques, and he is quite knowledgeable about these. For another, he has flunked his science course and is attending summer school to make it up. (He likes his teacher, he can pass the course, but he is completely disinterested in the subject—and remains unreconstructed.) He has tenacity and perseverance just like Sinbad, his wonderful bulldog. He doesn't set out to solve mysteries or play a lone hand. He reports odd happenings to the sheriff who is an intelligent, interesting, and observant man. (Hooray!)
Steve's friends are unusual, too. Herky is an authentic genius with total recall and a photographic memory. Mrs. Teska is old and crippled, speaks broken English, and is shrewd and kind. The science teacher skin dives and collects coins. Steve takes it...
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[Sinbad and Me] will prove a delight for young readers. Young Steve Forrester is left behind to work out a science course during the summer when his parents leave for the Maine woods. In a short time Steve becomes involved, with his English bulldog, Sinbad, in a series of adventures. The adventures lead to the solution of the town's favorite mystery, the disappearance of Big Nick Murdock and his boat, "River Queen." The pleasant style, lively narrative and spirited action all contribute to make a delightful book for the mystery-loving young reader.
A review of "Sinbad and Me," in Best Sellers (copyright 1966, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 26, No. 13, October 1, 1966, p. 251.
(The entire section is 111 words.)
Sarah Law Kennerly
A most unusual book is Kin Platt's Sinbad and Me …, a long and lively story told by its 12-year-old hero, Steve. While his parents are out of town, Steve and Sinbad, his English bulldog, disrupt the peace and harmony of Hampton, New Jersey, unravel an 18th-century mystery, find a hidden million-dollar treasure, outwit some pretty unsavory underworld characters, and find Big Nick Murdock, who disappeared years before when his floating gambling casino sank. Steve puzzles out riddles on tombstones and ciphers in a pirate's cave to solve much of the mystery, and his precocious knowledge of architecture and old houses does the rest. The whole story is outrageously illogical, long and rambling, and refreshingly funny.
Sarah Law Kennerly, in her review of "Sinbad and Me," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1966 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1966), Vol. 13, No. 4, December, 1966, p. 71.
(The entire section is 157 words.)
Kin Platt's Sinbad and Me was a real spine-tingler but there's no mystery about [the protagonist of The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear]: he's a schizophrenic. In a combination of flashback, stream of consciousness and almost equally interior narrative, Roger reacts to his parents' abrupt divorce, to the tempo and impersonality of New York, and especially … constantly … to his inability to pronounce the letter r. As a small child he burned his tongue on a styptic pencil; thanks to a singularly monstrous set of parents, the impediment has mushroomed until the simplest conversation is agony. A few people reach him: the impetuous model in the penthouse and her boyfriend, who learned endurance in the Resistance; a girl who's crippled but not cramped; his current speech therapist, a solid, forthright, feeling woman. It is the latter who holds on when Roger withdraws into an infantile autistic state and the Frenchman who may lead him out. Obviously this is not child's play; neither is it good psychology—Roger's parents are too brutal, his benefactors too heroic. And as an approximation of adult fiction, it's not sufficiently well structured or written to be worth recommending.
A review of "The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear," in Kirkus Service (copyright © 1968 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXVI, No. 10, May 15, 1968, p. 556.
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["The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear"] lacks the humor of the author's "Sinbad and Me", which was published in 1966. But the same understanding of youth is present as the story dips into the confused existence of young Roger Baxter. Roger is living in New York with his mother, following the divorce of his parents. His father has always been busy and his mother is only concerned with herself. The boy makes friends, but eventually breaks down from the emotional strain. Young readers might have trouble with the story, but the insights into family life and its importance will not be lost on older students. (pp. 173-74)
A review of "The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear," in Best Sellers (copyright 1968, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 28, No. 8, July 15, 1968, pp. 173-74.
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Although it is a little difficult to believe in the sustained cruelty of Roger's mother, [The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear] is a story so moving and so well written that one must accept her as a person whose aberrant behavior, deeply sadistic and selfish, has gone without notice because most of it is directed, in private, toward her only child…. [Roger's] sad musings on incidents of the past, his efforts to cope with his mother's hostility, and his valiant efforts to cooperate with the speech therapist are brilliantly told. (pp. 14-15)
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; copyright 1968 by The University of Chicago). Vol. 22, No. 1, September, 1968, pp. 14-15.
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[The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear is an] unusual and disturbing novel which is apt to be controversial because of its theme and the way in which that theme is developed. The central character is seventh-grader Roger Baxter, handicapped by a severe speech impediment which resulted from a childhood accident and has been compounded by emotional problems with his parents, who have just been divorced and are both indifferent to the boy's welfare…. The novel ends on a faintly hopeful note when Roger, now in a mental hospital, makes tentative contact with someone who wants to help him. The reading is not easy; the author uses many flashbacks, and some passages verge on stream-of-consciousness. Nor is the book without flaws—Roger's mother, for example, seems at times unbelievably heartless. But in its painful honesty, this, like the YA favorite, [Hannah Green's] I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, is a book that will remain with thoughtful young people long after it is read.
John Gillespie, in his review of "The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the October, 1968 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1968), Vol. 15, No. 2, October, 1968, p. 172.
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Sarah Law Kennerly
Mystery of the Witch Who Wouldn't … is the sequel to Sinbad and Me…. But readers who expect more of the same should be warned immediately: this one is all about witchcraft and only for aficionados. Hero Steve, his bulldog Sinbad, and his friend Minerva Landry, the sheriff's daughter, get involved with a little old lady witch, Aurelia Hepburn, who tells Minerva not to let her father open any package tied with string. When the sheriff does open one, it explodes, and he ends up in the hospital. Steve and Minerva investigate, aided, of course, by Aurelia, who's subsequently captured by the criminals. They try to make her read the secret-formula-containing mind of a scientist they've captured, but Aurelia calls up her demons, weaves a spell that brings about a spectacularly successful hurricane, and performs other magic feats which unnerve the criminals. A kind of juvenile, watered down Rosemary's Baby, full of witchery and lacking a plot.
Sarah Law Kennerly, in her review of "Mystery of the Witch Who Wouldn't," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1969 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1969). Vol. 16, No. 4, December, 1969, p. 64.
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The theme [of Hey, Dummy] is involvement: Neil's protective interest in and eventually, total identification (by means of an "altered personality due to an existing anxiety state from unknown psychogenic … causes") with a brain-dramaged boy. But the inept interior monologues (meant to convey the "Dummy's" state of mind), long-winded lectures on the facts of mental retardation, and heavy-handed reliance on the scapegoat motif impede any reader empathy. Just as we begin to plumb Neil's disintegrating psyche, the plot goes haywire—with a dead girl, a lynch mob and an improbable escape—and this well-intentioned, potentially enlightening, foray into abnormal psychology loses its own grip on reality. The result is stylistic confusion and, in the end, the exploitation of Neil's sensitively defined mental anguish for its shock value.
A review of "Hey, Dummy," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1971 The Kirkus Service, Inc.). Vol. XXXIX, No. 22, November 15, 1971, p. 1213.
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Bringing the tragedy of mental retardation to the printed page is difficult. Only the simplest truth is needed, and yet nothing that is said ever seems quite enough. Through the wry, sensitive Neil Comstock, Kin Platt says more than anybody so far, and he says it with gentleness and guts.
["Hey, Dummy"] begins with a three-man football game in which the Dummy becomes unwittingly involved when he picks up the stray ball. Boyish violence ensues, leaving Neil disturbed. "Thinking about that Dummy just lying there and saying 'Aaaah' after I hit him, ruined my game."
Neil's involvement with the Dummy increases….
[Soon Neil] is attempting to look at the world as the Dummy does. He tries to put himself into Alan's skin….
The build-up to the final tragedy is slow and sure. A young girl is attacked in the park, and the Dummy becomes the target of mob action. Neil, totally committed now, helps him escape. His evaluation of the situation is one of the most poignant moments of the novel. "I'm in big trouble … I'm sure I had to do what I did but it just didn't work out the way things are supposed to when you feel you're doing right." And then the agonized, "If only he wasn't such a Dummy!"
Despite an occasional jarring note (Would any bakery attendant stand by while the Dummy helped himself to nine cakes?) the book has a realistic feel to it. This is largely due to the...
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[In Hey, Dummy] Neil is at first both amused and repelled by the retarded boy who has moved into the neighborhood and is attending his school, but he soon begins to feel sympathy for Alan (the "Dummy" of the title) and to defend him when others tease him. And Alan responds, following Neil affectionately. Soon rejected by his other friends, worried by Alan's situation (autistic sister, withdrawn mother, father in an institution, home a shambles) and bitterly conscious of the harshness and hostility of his own parents, Neil is driven to run off with Alan. When they are caught, tension has pushed Neil to the breaking-point, and his sympathy for Alan results in his identifying with Alan. There has been, throughout the book, a train-of-consciousness reaction from the retarded Alan, and the startling ending has the same disjointed and monosyllabic speech (always italicized) only this time it is Neil. He has become a dummy, too. Not quite as effective as Platt's other study of a disturbed child (perhaps because the focus is broader here and therefore more diffuse) this is, nevertheless, a perceptive treatment of a child's sensitivity. Artistically it suffers somewhat because there is so little relief from the almost universal reactions of suspicion, intolerance, fear, and hostility on the parts of the adult characters.
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Hey, Dummy," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's...
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In our opinion, Kin Platt's portraits of disturbed children have not always hit the mark. But Chloris [protagonist of Chloris and the Creeps]—in her violent hatred of the "creeps" her mother dates—and her rejection of her new stepfather in favor of an idealized memory of her dead (suicided) one—is totally believable…. Platt's strength lies in his ability to show Chloris both from her mother's point of view as a disturbing and disturbed child, and through the more intimate, non-judgmental eyes of her sympathetic sister…. Unlike the hero of Hey, Dummy … whose regression seemed both insufficiently motivated and dramatically unsubstantiated, Chloris is simply one of those people who has trouble letting go of her past; and as such she will be familiar to readers of all ages.
A review of "Chloris and the Creeps," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1973 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLI, No. 4, February 15, 1973, p. 188.
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Kristin E. Hammond
[Chloris and the Creeps is another] novel about the problems caused by divorce, with the added complication of parental suicide…. Chloris' growing neurosis … is well handled, but her sudden reversal seems hard to believe. The divorce and suicide are never sufficiently explained, and children may not understand that these are the reasons for Chloris' unhappiness. Jenny is not consistently portrayed, and the mother and stepfather are stock characters. A Room Made of Windows by Eleanor Cameron … and Lillian by Gunilla Norris … treat similar problems more realistically.
Kristin E. Hammond, in her review of "Chloris and the Creeps," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the April, 1973 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1973), Vol. 19, No. 8, April, 1973, p. 69.
(The entire section is 129 words.)
Any man who wants to marry her mother is a creep, Chloris thinks, her bitter resentment recorded by her [eight-year-old] sister Jenny [in Chloris and the Creeps]…. When their mother marries the gentle, patient Fidel Mancha, Chloris is venomous. With great skill, Kin Platt develops the slow, reluctant shedding of Chloris' fantasies about a hero-father and her acceptance of Fidel, whose intelligent sympathy does more to help Chloris than her mother's exasperated love or Jenny's careful allegiance to her sister. While the style is not convincing as that of a child of eight, the fidelity and insight of the author's conception and development far outweigh that one flaw in a moving and realistic story.
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Chloris and the Creeps," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1974 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 27, No. 5, January, 1974, p. 84.
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[Headman is] Durango Street updated, not only in language which is uncensored street talk throughout, but—more important—in the ending, where your suspicion that Owen doesn't have a chance is confirmed…. It's [a] kid with a corkscrew who gets him in the end, but Owen's decision to form his own gang of four in self defense sort of brings it on. And so we leave him—going down, dizzy, unable to speak, and in his head the perfect phrase to summarize it all: "What the fuck?" It's at least a generation too late for this kind of dead end realism to carry a real jolt, but Platt does give Owen enough good breaks to keep the options open, while at the same time making forcefully clear what he's up against.
A review of "Headman," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1975 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLIII, No. 14, July 15, 1975, p. 783.
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[In "Chloris and the Freaks"] Mom starts cheating on her second husband (Fidel, a sculptor, who lives only "to create," but can discourse on men, women and divorce at the drop of a mallet) while leaving her two semi-demented daughters to their own devices. What devices? Chloris, the elder, has a seance nightly with "dear Daddy's spirit" (he killed himself for reasons I will spare you, after marrying his second wife); Chloris plans to oust the pontificating Fidel and get rid of a new contender too. Jenny, the younger, eschews such signs of insanity and prefers instead to follow the signs of the zodiac, treating us to everyone's daily horoscope. You might say it's a mixture of psychology à la Dr. Franzblau and your local one-flight-up astrologist, and I, for one, find either medium a tedium. (p. 52)
Alix Nelson, "Fractured Families," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 16, 1975, pp. 50, 52.∗
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Owen Kirby [protagonist of Headman], whose father was killed long ago in a fight and whose mother is an alcoholic, is sentenced to a rehabilitative "camp" after his knife work on three others, while defending himself in a street attack. At the camp which is liberally run, Owen makes friends and seems to be adapting to this life, but his term is cut short due to his mother's illness…. Again, he takes to the street and at the end of the story finds himself at the wrong end of a switchblade. This fast-paced novel is written for the same age group as Durango Street … yet the point of [Frank] Bonham's novel has been inverted here: social institutions are irrelevant to the Owen Kirbys of this country; the only law which is real is the law of the street. The language is street talk—sharp and quick and punctuated by a litany of fucks, shits, mothers, and the like. The language, however, is used to make the character of Owen believable and the setting credible. Provocative and engrossing, this is an especially good choice for the category of readers who need "high interest, low reading level" material.
Jack Forman, in his review of "Headman," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1975 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1975), Vol. 22, No. 4, December, 1975, p. 61.
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"You got to have gangs. You got to run…. The way the street is you got to have gangs. You by yourself, man, you got no chance. On the streets, it's the gangs what do the talking…. How else you going to go about your business without being cut or stomped out?" The speaker is Justin Dye; "headman" of the Nomads, a black street gang in Kin Platt's taut and very tough novel ["Headman"] about growing up dead in the white, black and Chicano ghettos of Los Angeles. Platt's book isn't about Justin; it's about Owen Kirby, a young white slum-dweller who knows that Justin's way is the only way….
[Unreality never] creeps into "Headman," which is as direct as a hammer-blow. The language of "Headman," by the way, is the language of the streets, with hardly a four-letter word omitted. Obscenities abound in Owen Kirby's world, but none more obscene than that world itself, which most of us, given the chance, close our eyes to.
Robert Berkvist, in his review of "Headman," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 14, 1975, p. 8.
(The entire section is 191 words.)
[Chloris and the Freaks] leans heavily on a few devices: Jennie's use of the daily paper's astrology column as a crutch; a frazzled teacher who functions as a stand-up comedian on the subject of marital discord; even Fidel's sometimes mushy philosophizing. And it takes a long time to recap Chloris' old problems. Nevertheless, Chloris continues to be a startlingly truthful portrait of a psychologically mixed-up girl, grimly determined to revenge the wounds of her mother's divorce and her father's suicide by breaking up this second marriage. And what we learn here about Daddy's death and Mom's continued immaturity adds a new, strengthening dimension. Jenny herself continues to be loyal to Chloris yet uncompromising in her struggle to disassociate herself from Chloris' delusions. The loss of Fidel's reassuring presence seems cruel but it's strictly logical. Platt's hard-edged California moderns may not be the most likable people, but one can't resist getting involved. And this unhappy episode is sure to create anxious demand for still more news of Chloris. (pp. 1379-80)
A review of "Chloris and the Freaks," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1975 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLIII, No. 24, December 15, 1975, pp. 1379-80.
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In [Chloris and the Freaks] sequel to Chloris and the Creeps, in which Chloris' fanatical devotion to her dead father made her hostile to a stepfather, Fidel, the fourteen-year-old girl is even more bitter and antagonistic…. There's no sweetness and light here. Save for Fidel Mancha, a wise and kind man, all the adult characters are the "freaks" Chloris so contemptuously dubs them. The book has some flaws: an alcoholic teacher talks of his personal life to his class in unconvincing fashion, and the book is oversaturated with Jenny's preoccupation with astrology. Too bad, because the author writes with incisive candor and clarity, albeit a bitter clarity. (pp. 131-32)
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Chloris and the Freaks," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1976 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 29, No. 8, April, 1976, pp. 131-32.
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[The Doomsday Gang] is a bleaker and less dramatic variation on Platt's Headman…. Led by tough 15-year-old Coby (he's been on the street since age 10), five Los Angeles teens who've been losers all their lives (they call themselves "fuck-ups") form the Doomsday Gang…. In trying to follow five characters, Platt is unable to develop any of them as much as he did Owen Kirby in Headman. Platt's message in both stories—there's nothing in gangs, but that's all there is—is driven home here with less impact and more cynicism.
Jack Forman, in his review of "The Doomsday Gang," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the May, 1978 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1978), Vol. 24, No. 9, May, 1978, p. 79.
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Another entertaining yet cutting picture of contemporary California family life, [Chloris and the Weirdos] finds sisters Chloris (15) and Jennifer (13) coping with the aftermath of their mother's second divorce, along with their own adolescent exploration of dating. Ever the stable Libra of the family, Jen suddenly finds herself in love with a very sweet, non-sexist, red-haired skateboarder; she also discovers a capacity for unexpected explosions as her mother and sister constantly clash over freedom, responsibility, and male relationships. Platt really knows these characters and their situation, revealing a flair for funny dialogue in conjunction with serious issues that involve both children and adults, neither of which he idealizes or puts down. This has the same high appeal as, and a more natural flow than, Chloris and the Freaks….
Betsy Hearne, in her review of "Chloris and the Weirdos," in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright © 1978 by the American Library Association), Vol. 75, No. 26, November 15, 1978, p. 548.
(The entire section is 157 words.)
[In The Doomsday Gang] white teenagers in Los Angeles form the Doomsday Gang in an attempt to survive a violent world. By publishing this book, Kin Platt and Greenwillow have surely created a new genre of children's literature—vulgarism. Realistic stories about the problems of modern youth living in far less than ideal conditions have been enjoyed by the many fans of S. E. Hinton and Frank Bonham, but neither of these authors and countless others had to writher in the slime of language to project their stories for children and young adults. Each page is literally loaded with obscenities, and will certainly offend everyone.
James Norsworthy, in his review of "The Doomsday Gang," in Catholic Library World, Vol. 50, No. 5, December, 1978, p. 236.
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Kin Platt, like J. D. Salinger a generation ago, has evidently been doing a lot of listening [to young adults], because The Doomsday Gang has the most accurate reproduction of the speech of urban male teenagers since Catcher in the Rye. Not only do four-letter words appear on every page, they appear in nearly every sentence, and in their variant forms they substitute for almost any noun, verb, or adjective. The effect, as in the original, is numbing and very effectively conveys the flatness and boredom of the limited lives of street kids. In this reviewer's opinion the language of The Doomsday Gang is completely justified by the subject; this is the way these hostile, abandoned kids would talk, and anyone who prefers that they say "Goodness gracious!" instead of "What the fuck!" is opting for dishonesty. (p. 340)
The real selection problem with The Doomsday Gang stems not from the language, but from Platt's unintentional cultural slur and from the undeniable fact that the book makes violence sound like fun. The climactic scene is a rumble in which the massed Chicano gangs close in on a bunch of naive and uppity kids from the suburbs. This is no innocent Hollywood slugfest, but a bloody massacre with broken bottles and tire chains, where skulls are fractured and guts are spilled. Nevertheless, we find ourselves drawn into the fierce joy of combat, and we cheer when the Doomsday Gang roars into the battle on...
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Jenny writes about her problems and her sister Chloris in [Chloris and the Weirdos], a sequel to Chloris and the Creeps and Chloris and the Freaks. Jenny's thirteen, Chloris fifteen and difficult. Chloris had hated the stepfather Jenny loved, and she's bitterly resentful when their mother has a date; angry, and fearful that Mom may marry again. Jenny's more understanding, aware of her mother's loneliness, and she's happily establishing a relationship with her first boyfriend, Harold. Platt does a marvelously perceptive and amusing job with Jenny and Harold; they are nervous but candid with each other, neither wanting to be too committed and both finding joy in friendship as well as excitement at being in love. When an exasperated Chloris flounces off for a forbidden weekend at the same time Mom is making her gesture of independence (a weekend date) there's a showdown. The characters have vitality and conviction, the relationships are perceptively drawn, and there's an abundance of humor—especially in the dialogue between Jenny and her skateboard-addict Harold.
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Chloris and the Weirdos," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1979 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 32, No. 7, March, 1979, p. 124.
(The entire section is 206 words.)
In [Dracula, Go Home!, a] seriocomic takeoff on the Dracula theme, Larry Carter, the affable, high school-age narrator, becomes curious enough about a ghoulish-looking hotel guest (who frequents the local cemetery and sports a black cape) to do some checking. Although he eventually discovers his imagination is a bit overactive and Count Dracula has not returned in the person of the creepy Mr. A. R. Claud, Larry does link the guest's unusual activities to some jewel thefts several summers before. An agreeable change of pace from the many problem-oriented books written for those with reading difficulties.
A review of "Dracula, Go Home!" in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright © 1979 by the American Library Association), Vol. 75, No. 18, May 15, 1979, p. 1435.
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[In Chloris and the Weirdos, Mr. Platt] has done an excellent job with the character of Jennifer, portraying her problems and her solutions to those problems in a way that is easy for middle class preteens to identify with and learn from. His other characters do not come across as well. Harold is the perfect non-stereotyped adolescent, who is frequently just too good to be true. Jennifer's sister Chloris and her mother are portrayed as somewhat one dimensional, while her grandmother is portrayed in a negative manner that contributes nothing to the story.
The writing is smooth and easy as the book moves toward what seems to be its inevitable conclusion of Jennifer resolving her concerns about Harold and her mother's dating. Then Jennifer's mother goes away for a weekend with a man and Chloris runs away. The resulting family discussion on what family members owe each other and what they owe themselves is well done, although the reader is left hanging somewhat as to how the mother-daughter conflicts will be resolved. Perhaps that will be included in the next book in the series.
In general the book is a reasonably good one, although somewhat weakened by its negative portrayal of the grandmother. It can be of value to the preteen children of divorced parents trying to come to grips with both their own and their mothers' sexuality.
Patricia Campbell, in her review of "Chloris...
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Larry, who [narrates Dracula, Go Home!], is spending the summer helping his aunt run a hotel. He's convinced there's something eerie about the tall, secretive man who rents a room as A. R. Claud: Why does the man never use the hotel dining room? Why does he prowl about in the dark? And why does nobody ever see Claud coming down the stairs? Larry investigates old local papers and looks over the hotel register, discovering that the same handwriting as Claud's has been used for other names—always the same room. Is he really a vampire? No, but he is a criminal. There's some humor and plenty of action, some suspense, and certainly an element of mystery in a not-very-convincing story that will probably appeal to many readers because of the brisk pace and the suggestion of looming danger. Since the vocabulary difficulty is low, this should prove useful for slow older readers.
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Dracula Go Home!" in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1979 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 33, No. 1, September, 1979, p. 16.
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Fifteen-year-old Eddie Hall [protagonist of The Ape Inside Me] seems unable to control his temper. Plagued, in addition, by frustrations at home and a lack of self-confidence, he invents a macho alter ego (Kong) to which he assigns blame for the numerous fights he always getting into. Platt casts Eddie as surprisingly likable and uncomplicated, despite his volatility, and Eddie's struggles to gain control of his temper (which he eventually does) will strike a responsive chord among teenagers facing their own individual growing pains. Those in search of the "realistic" stuff of Platt's earlier books won't find it here. What teenagers will find, however, is a simply written, positive story with an obvious, but not too overbearing, message—an appealing combination especially for reluctant readers.
A review of "The Ape Inside Me," in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright © 1980 by the American Library Association), Vol. 76, No. 9, January 1, 1980, p. 662.
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Claire M. Dyson
Fifteen year old Eddie [protagonist of The Ape Inside Me] is a "scrapper" often involved in violent clashes which, he insists, are encouraged by the "ape" inside him. Eddie calls the ape "Kong" and conveniently blames him when things get out of hand. Interestingly, most of the trouble encountered has not been initiated by Eddie (or Kong); it is simply a reaction to injustice, whether it be visited upon himself or upon others….
The book covers a brief period in Eddie's life, yet we become fully aware of the circumstances of his home environment, his school, and the socio-economic climate of the community. The characters are well drawn; painfully poignant is that of Eddie's mother whose desperation in trying to retain her housemate suggests a pitiable lack of self-esteem.
A first person narrative is difficult but Kin Platt's character is wholly believable, and because he is an adolescent wrestling with the onset of maturity, the tiresome self-analysis which attends the I/Me tomes of the adult genre is absent here. The concluding chapter is unashamedly idealistic, so hold the moment close!… It's a singular joy to imagine just once "all things bright and beautiful" working together.
Claire M. Dyson, in her review of "The Ape Inside Me," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1980 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 39, No. 11, February, 1980, p. 410....
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There's some humor and plenty of action in [The Ghost of Hellsfire Street] in which the narrator, Steve, is the ever-suspicious, ever-tenacious detective despite his youthfulness. Steve's wildest suspicions are doubted by his friend Miranda and by her father, Sheriff Landry, but all of them prove to be true. One wonders if Platt has made an effort to see just how heavily he can lay it on: there's a kidnapped scientist, a medium who bilks a credulous old woman out of a million dollars, a pirate ghost, a dignified Shinnecock chieftain who lends Steve his sacred spirit bag, a venal politician, and so on. And a fire. Steve talks and talks to his dog. Everything comes out right, and it's all quite predictable and rather boring. Too bad, since Platt can do better.
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "The Ghost of Hellsfire Street," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1980 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 34, No. 3, November, 1980, p. 62.
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[In Flames Going Out] Tammy, a disturbed 16 year old from an upper-middle-class family, plays a game that becomes a metaphor for her mental illness. Tammy lights a match, talks to it, and becomes one with it; as the match burns, she feels alive and creative, but when it dissipates into smoke, her reality disappears. Dr. Greengold, her psychiatrist (a biting but witty and understanding person), helps Tammy develop a self based in reality. Unfortunately, her association with her doctor leads to a romantic involvement with Greengold's hopelessly drug-addicted son, which ends in tragedy for both. The stark realism of Platt's gang stories (Headman …, etc.) doesn't work here, however. Tammy is more than a societal problem, and to make her believable requires more than fast plot action, direct language (punctuated by various uses of the word "fuck"), and some hackneyed attempts to explain Tammy's illness in flashback bits and pieces (an uncle who fondled her and a teen party where she was almost raped). The flame burns brighter and with more substance in Green's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden …, [Judith] Guest's Ordinary People … and, for younger readers, [John] Neufeld's Lisa, Bright and Dark…. (pp. 63-4)
Jack Forman, in his review of "Flames Going Out," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1980 issue of School Library Journal, published by...
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[The Ghost of Hellsfire Street] is a rip-roaring mystery. Steve Forrester and his pet bulldog Sinbad are faced with four mysteries: a scientist who may not have been kidnapped as thought, a weird psychic who may be trying to defraud an old woman, a new political party trying to oust Steve's friend Sheriff Landry and a pirate's ghost who keeps appearing in Steve's bedroom. The mysteries are all related to a plot to cheat the local Indians out of a hidden oil deposit on their reservation, but before the villains can be rounded up, Steve, Sinbad and friends have to face a trial by fire in a secret cave. Platt's dialogue is barbed, there's enough going on for several books and by story's end everything is wrapped up nice and tight. More please!
Drew Stevenson, in his review of "The Ghost of Hellsfire Street," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1980 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1980), Vol. 27, No. 4, December, 1980, p. 74.
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Since a major function of adolescent literature is to provide reality checks for the reader's self-image, YA novels about teens who struggle through mental illnesses can be useful if they present an accurate picture of deviant behavior.
Recently there have been a number of books in which young adults who are overwhelmed by their problems commit suicide, starve themselves, or just plain act weird. Most of the authors of these books seem to have made at least some responsible efforts to research the symptoms and prognosis of the unhealthy behavior they are depicting.
This reviewer, however, has been intrigued (and a bit disturbed) to notice a difference between the plot structure of the books with a female protagonist and those with a male as the main character. The boys carry through with their willful self-destruction in a determined even heroic way, leaving their girlfriends to agonize over their own ineffectiveness in preventing the tragedy. See, for example, Tunnel Vision by Fran Arrick or About David by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The disturbed girls, on the other hand, vacillate and waffle and are eventually salvaged by their boyfriends' steadfast love. (p. 454)
Kin Platt pulls a switch on this formula in Flames Going Out. Tammy has only a tentative hold on reality and must reassure herself of her continued existence by secretly lighting matches to see the flames that have come to...
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Kin Platt's reputation as the author of "controversial" books for teen-agers is based on the not unreasonable assumption that anyone who manages to shock so many adults must be telling it like it is. In the past, Mr. Platt's candor has served him well, but Flames Going Out … is, just as the title suggests, a fizzle. When we first meet his heroine Tammy Darling (the name passes for irony) she is a mentally disturbed 16-year-old who has decided to resolve her sexual confusion through an affair with the drug-addict son of her Beverly Hills psychiatrist. Tammy's pursuit of this unlikely, and at times unwilling, love object is graphically portrayed, but this girl has so few resources for survival that one begins to feel like a voyeur for reading on to the inevitable conclusion. The setting of Tammy's odyssey, by the way, is decadent L.A., where her schoolmates are involved in fast sex, loud disco and hard drugs. A novel that challenged our preconceived notions of this scene could hardly have failed to be engaging, but it is hard to imagine how Los Angeles mores, even if accurately described, could be responsible for Tammy's problems. And the prospect of this being read, as the publisher's catalogue copy suggests, as "the story of young lovers … star-crossed by their times" is rather chilling.
Joyce Milton, in her review of "Flames Going Out," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1981 by The New York...
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[Flames Going Out] is a depressing, unrelievedly negative novel: Platt handles the shifting of time adequately and the writing style is competent, and he conveys, as he did years (and many books) ago in The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear, with bitter brilliance the conflicts within a psychotic personality. As a novel, however, this seems too monochrome, too intricate, too directionless to reach readers. (pp. 159-60)
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Flames Going Out," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1981 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 34, No. 8, April, 1981, pp. 159-60.
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Fifteen-year-old Monty [protagonist of Brogg's Brain] is on the track team, but he has little ambition and little expectation of winning races. It's his father who keeps pushing Monty, who talks things over with the coach, who pushes so hard he almost makes the boy lose interest. One night he and Cindy (a mild but growing love interest) see a movie called "Brogg's Brain," and—as in the movie—a disembodied voice seems to spur Monty on to win a race. This is not, however, the formula last-minute victory: Monty's win brings him no new status, no kudos, just some personal satisfaction. Although this has less surface sophistication, it is in some ways more mature than other (not all) Platt novels, knitting the theme of the reluctant sportsman, the basic father-son relationship, the growing self-confidence, and the increasing relaxation in the boy-girl relationship into a sturdy and effective whole. (pp. 35-6)
Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Brogg's Brain," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1981 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 35, No. 2, October, 1981, pp. 35-6.
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[Brogg's Brain] is an extremely compelling story of one youngster's battle for identity and self-confidence. Monty's confusion about what constitutes a worthwhile goal, and his decision to leave an easily attained mediocrity for the more demanding world of winning form the heart of a light, but credible, plot. Like The Ape Inside Me, Platt has once again served up a winning story for YAs, one whose simple style and engaging characters make it a worthy read for all and a clear possibility for reluctant readers. Several female athletes play significant roles in shaping Monty's decision, and their presence should serve to broaden appeal across sex lines.
Kevin Kenny, in his review of "Brogg's Brain," in Voice of Youth Advocates (copyright 1981 by Voice of Youth Advocates), Vol. 4, No. 5, December, 1981, p. 34.
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Who should follow Dracula (Dracula, Go Home) but Frankenstein? Kin Platt's fantastic slapstick version [Frank and Stein and Me] of the classic merely changes the names and plot "to protect the innocent."
Thanks to his sister's mumps, Jack Hook, basketball player, is awarded Glop Oil's contest trip to Paris. Armed with his trusty basketball, Jack agrees to carry the mysterious stranger's birthday cake for his dear old mom in Paris. When the "cake" proves to be grass, Jack, on the run from customs agents and in search of comedic smugglers, Alphonse and Gaston, is rescued by black-bearded Dr. Stein who looks like Freud and acts like Frankenstein. Dr. Stein's horrifying "baby" Frank, created out of an ex-circus strongman and assorted concrete and iron, helps Jack capture the smugglers atop the Eiffel Tower and ends up with both a Glop Oil commercial contract and its beautiful representative.
I admire Kin Platt's talent for telling an interesting, even exciting tale with simple, not simple-minded vocabulary—and with wit….
Frank and Stein is a silly spoof (second cousin to Get Smart) based on common, garden-variety Frankenstein lore. But the cardboard characters are so inept as to be engaging. The contrived ending is appropriate; Jack has won another free trip—this time to Slobovia. Though designed for high/lows, the novel will amuse anyone with an appreciation of the...
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