Despite concerns, this coming-of-age tale offers a vivid, accessible portrait of a fascinating time and place.

ANYWHERE BUT PARADISE

As far as Peggy Sue is concerned, Hawaii is no paradise.

The seventh-grader is already unhappy about moving from Texas to Hawaii in 1960, halfway through the year and with her cat, Howdy, stuck in quarantine for 120 days, when an eighth-grader at her new school calls her a “stupid haole” (white), warning that the last day of school is “Kill Haole Day.” Despite Peggy Sue’s efforts to make peace, the bullying continues. Learning how Queen Liliuokalani was deposed and her kingdom taken over by American businessmen helps Peggy Sue understand anti-haole sentiment, but it still hurts. Despite being befriended by Malina, a classmate whose mother teaches Peggy Sue’s hula class, Peggy Sue’s miserable—plus Howdy’s losing his fur and has stopped purring. How can she feel at home in a place where native Hawaiians are prejudiced against whites and devastating tsunamis take lives? By sewing outfits for the upcoming hula recital, she can earn airfare back to Texas. Hawaii born and raised, Bustard brings this early statehood era and its racial tensions to life effectively. However, Peggy Sue’s portrayal as indifferent to race distinctions and free of racial bias herself feels anachronistic at best for a white adolescent from Texas, where, in 1960, desegregation was vigorously opposed by whites and barely touched public institutions, schools and businesses. Why is only cruel Kiki a child of her time?

Despite concerns, this coming-of-age tale offers a vivid, accessible portrait of a fascinating time and place. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60684-585-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.

NORTHWIND

A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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