A powerful coming-of-age story of self-discovery and overcoming fear.

CROSSING THE STREAM

Twelve-year-old Ato has longed to visit the island of Nnoma, a highly protected bird sanctuary that his late father helped build, in this latest title by award-winning Ghanaian author Baitie.

If he and his friends Dzifa and Leslie put together a successful environmental project, they could earn one of the rare opportunities to see Nnoma, and they embark on growing vegetables using organic pesticides. Ato has other things on his mind too: His mother recently announced that he would be spending weekends with Nana, his paternal grandmother. This was unexpected since tensions developed between the two women after his father’s death and he hasn’t gone to her house in years. Ato is also aware of financial problems at home. The one thing that seems to lift his mother’s spirits are conversations with the Prophet, a spiritual figure with growing influence in their community. Despite feeling close to Nana, who visits on special occasions, Ato is uneasy because of gossip and warnings about her. However, his grandmother’s stories gradually answer questions Ato has about his father and make him determined to uncover secrets in his community. This richly textured contemporary story set in Ghana highlights timely issues around the environment and exploitation of the poor. The well-developed sense of place and natural dialogue create an immersive reading experience, and Ato and his friends, especially fearless Dzifa, are engaging as they discover the courage to push for truth.

A powerful coming-of-age story of self-discovery and overcoming fear. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-01709-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling.

A WISH IN THE DARK

A fugitive from prison must evade his pursuer, the prison warden’s daughter, while potentially joining a revolution.

Pong has lived his whole life in Namwon Prison until a chance escape leaves him free in the city of Chattana. Pong quickly finds that freedom does not come so easily: Since the Great Fire, Chattana is under the strict control of the Governor, who creates the magical lights that run the city and that are the only lights allowed. Marked as a prisoner, Pong has nowhere to turn. Worse, the prison warden’s daughter Nok is on his trail, intent on proving both her worth and that of her family with his capture. Meanwhile, larger forces in Chattana are stirring, as not everyone is happy with the Governor’s rule. Set in a fantasy analogue of Thailand, all characters are presumed Thai, and Thai life and culture permeate the story in everything from the mangoes Pong eats in prison to the monks he meets beyond the prison’s walls. It’s also a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Soontornvat has maintained the themes of the original while making the plot and the characters utterly her own. Pong’s and Nok’s narratives are drawn together by common threads of family, loyalty, and a quest to define right and wrong, twining to create a single, satisfying tale.

A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0494-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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