THE RIVER

A sequel to the most popular of Paulsen's three Newbery Honor books (Hatchet, 1987), based on an unlikely premise— government researchers want Brian to reenact his northwoods survival so that his strategies can be observed and taught to others. Derek, a young psychologist, and Brian are dropped off at another Canadian lake, near the first one, equipped only with knives and a radio that Derek has promised not to use except in a dire emergency. Everything goes all too smoothly until their camp is struck by lightning, zapping the radio and leaving Derek in a coma. Brian manages to float Derek 100 miles down a river to a trading post, thus saving his life. The lyrically described details of Brian's adventure— building a fire, making a raft—are of most interest here; for all its graphically evoked perils (rapids, the craft's unwieldiness, exhaustion), the journey's successful outcome seems less in doubt than did the outcome of the compelling autobiographical wilderness experiences described in Woodsong (1990). In Hatchet, Brian discovered his own strength, adding depth, complexity, and tension to the story; here, that strength is a given—as he himself points out. Perfunctory in design but vividly written, a book that will, as intended, please the readers who hoped that Paulsen, like Brian, would "do it again." (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-30388-2

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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