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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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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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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