Gwen Liv

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 510

The story [of A Star to the North] can be viewed as three parts: home, journey, and destination. The second part, the longest and also the best, features only the brother and sister team, later joined by a dog. It is written out of [Barbara Corcoran's and Bradford Angier's] true experience in the outdoors and not the work of an armchair traveller's imagination. The train ride, the canoe trip, the close encounter with a mother bear, the rescue of the dog, the battle with a moose are all incidents which provide lots of suspense and excitement.

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Alongside the adventure there is love, love between brother and sister. It is poetically told through their companionship and togetherness in the wild. (p. 21)

The first and last parts are too brief, if not abrupt, to allow the reader to get familiar with the other characters of the story. Consequently only Nathaniel and Kimberley become real, but it is the authors' prerogative to present clearly the portraits they consider deserving.

The style is fluent, clear, mild and more reserved than outgoing. There is little exaggeration, few words stronger than necessary, and no melodramatic writing. It is like a cup of good tea served straight without cream or sugar. The flavor and aroma may not be too strong, but they certainly linger on, and on, and on. (p. 22)

Gwen Liv, "Reviews: 'A Star to the North'," in In Review: Canadian Books for Children, Vol. 5, No. 3, Summer, 1971, pp. 21-2.

Out of her strong Montana milieu and away from the somewhat younger girl with whom she's always so at home, Barbara Corcoran is in control but a little over her head when it comes to adults and the passing incidentals (college boards in June of the senior year? pot—three puffs and … poof) [in The Lifestyle of Robie Tuckerman]. That's a misnomer anyhow in implying some sort of stasis since the whole story turns on the dynamics of maturing; it's not Robie alone who has growing to do, however, and that's part of her problem and the book's. Insofar as she's projected as a character in relief, her parents whom she indicatively calls Flo and Nathan are too distractingly ambiguous: the three of them make a quizzical circle of friends as they leave San Diego … for Mazatlan in Mexico to release [Nathan's] supposedly genuine-but-dormant literary talent. They uniformly shy away from conflict…. Robie herself is purged of it when Tommy dies unwontedly: they'd been a singularly nice pair and the source of the best moments here, preempting each other's thoughts and feelings even to citing the same line from Eliot's "Prufrock"; her other dating excursions sit wrong, being just forums for debunking stereotypes or provoking cliff-hanging discussions, and Tommy's accident (even a nice boy might ride a motorcycle) sits wrongest, being just a vehicle for Robie's catharsis…. Robie's not hard to like but she is hard to know—a forthcoming, labile personality on an oddly unstable stage.

"Older Fiction: 'The Lifestyle of Robie Tuckerman'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1971 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXIX, No. 15, August 1, 1971, p. 815.

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