A beautifully illustrated patchwork.


Fourteen-year-old Josiah Starbuck of Nantucket becomes marooned on an island with his dog, Zeke.

Extemporizing on Moby-Dick (a work with which the target audience is highly unlikely to be familiar), this story opens with a man who tells Josiah to “Call me Ishmael” showing up at the Starbucks’ house early one morning to deliver the news to Josiah and his mother that the whaler Pequod, on which Josiah’s father shipped out as first mate, went down with all hands except Ishmael. Josiah is understandably upset, but his grief turns (unconvincingly) to anger at Ishmael and his mother. Needing to clear his head, Josiah sets off in his catboat with Zeke and is caught by a storm. Knocked unconscious by the boom, Josiah wakes up to find himself shipwrecked on a tiny, unfamiliar island. He and Zeke eke out their survival on the scrubby island, on which sits a coffin-shaped fisherman’s shack and an arch made of a whalebone’s jaw—which delivers disturbing dreams to Josiah (the strongest portions of the story) whenever he falls asleep against it. The story’s inconsistencies (whether it’s early or late spring, wouldn’t a boy whose mother makes blueberry jam recognize a blueberry bush out of season? How does Josiah know that Ishmael floated on a coffin when Ishmael did not relate that part of the story?) undermine it, and the two narrative sections—the dreams and Josiah’s survival activities—don’t transmute into a whole. The exquisite black-and-white illustrations, however, deliver a rich resonance.

A beautifully illustrated patchwork. (Historical fantasy/fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61696-350-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner


In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner


An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?