THE GOLDEN RAT

A sullen teen expresses grief over his mother’s death and anger at his father’s quick remarriage by slacking off his studies and unloading resentment on his immediate family. However, this familiar story line unfolds in 12th-century China, where the consequences of teen alienation prove severe. When Baoliu’s stepmother is murdered, he is falsely accused, quickly tried and sentenced to death. His father pays to have a peasant die in Baoliu’s place but disowns his son, believing him to be guilty. Formerly a pampered rich kid, Baoliu is thrown, penniless and despised, into a harshly unforgiving world. Zhou, a streetwise boy, befriends him and together they work to solve the mystery of who the killer was and to clear Baoliu’s name. Along the way, Baoliu and readers get more than a taste of the vile living conditions suffered by the peasantry. The gulf between rich and poor and the brutal oppression of those trying to survive at the bottom of the heap are vividly illustrated, but never overpower the exciting, fast-paced adventure story. A good choice for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59990-000-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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THE RIVER BETWEEN US

“Imagine an age when there were still people around who’d seen U.S. Grant with their own eyes, and men who’d voted for Lincoln.” Fifteen-year-old Howard Leland Hutchings visits his father’s family in Grand Tower, Illinois, in 1916, and meets four old people who raised his father. The only thing he knows about them is that they lived through the Civil War. Grandma Tilly, slender as a girl but with a face “wrinkled like a walnut,” tells Howard their story. Sitting up on the Devil’s Backbone overlooking the Mississippi River, she “handed over the past like a parcel.” It’s a story of two mysterious women from New Orleans, of ghosts, soldiers, and seers, of quadroons, racism, time, and the river. Peck writes beautifully, bringing history alive through Tilly’s marvelous voice and deftly handling themes of family, race, war, and history. A rich tale full of magic, mystery, and surprise. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8037-2735-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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