A tribute to refugees that shows them as the courageous survivors of unimaginable trauma.

YARA'S SPRING

Yara was only 10 when the Arab Spring began and Syria became the center of a brutal civil war.

By the time she was 14, the old days when she skipped through the streets to meet her friend Shireen for dance classes were gone. Aleppo was split in two, and anyone trying to cross between East and West Aleppo could be shot dead by snipers. Yara spent her days indoors behind boarded-up windows as President al-Assad’s helicopters mercilessly dropped bombs. One of these bombs kills Yara’s parents and leaves her trapped under rubble. Miraculously, she, her Nana, and her little brother survive, and they—along with Shireen and her twin brother—begin a slow, hazardous journey to Jordan. They endure long weeks of zigzagging through back roads, bribing corrupt soldiers, and facing danger, thirst, and exhaustion. Even once she reaches safety in Canada, Yara wrestles with guilt and ambivalence over leaving Syria; the trauma and anxiety of losing one’s home, family, and friends never fading. The novel, inspired by Saeed’s own experiences, confronts reality head-on with no attempt at romanticizing the fight for democracy or the unimaginable conditions children are forced to face in their struggle for safety. Through Yara’s eyes, readers are taken inside Syria—and through the emotions of love, loss, and steadfastness in the face of death.

A tribute to refugees that shows them as the courageous survivors of unimaginable trauma. (map, author’s note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-440-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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