Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere.

THE TREE IN THE COURTYARD

LOOKING THROUGH ANNE FRANK'S WINDOW

Nature watches as humans wage war.

A personified horse chestnut tree witnesses history as it grows, “reach[ing] skyward in peace. Until war came.” So begins the story of military “strangers” who enter a city. Soon after, eight solemn-faced people—five adults, two girls, and one boy—come to live in the nearby factory annex, and the tree watches as one of the young girls sits by the attic window and writes in her diary, never leaving the building. The tree blooms “extra bright” the spring after the young girl and boy kiss. Then the people are taken away, and the “tree ke[eps] a vigil.” Years later, the tree dies, only to have her seeds replanted in many cities. The book’s nameless war is, of course, World War II, and the unnamed soldiers were German troops. By avoiding specifics, Gottesfeld seems to be trying to universalize the story of Anne Frank, and in doing so, he diminishes the terrible truth of the Holocaust and Hitler’s Final Solution, during which, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1 million or more Jewish children perished. Giving the tree human sentiments is a further misstep. McCarty’s brown ink drawings on a white background are suitably sober and evocative, with scenes that are photographic images capturing stark moments.

Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75397-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Not a stand-alone, unlike the opener, but still a worthy tale built around a core of clashing cultures and shared human...

THE RAIDERS

From the Inuk Quartet series , Vol. 2

The second episode in the Danish author's Inuk Quartet sends young Icelander Leiv and his Inuit friends on a new mission of vengeance after Viking raiders plunder his newfound Greenland home.

They have spent an idyllic spring and summer recovering from the trek in Shipwreck (2011); it's been interrupted only by a quick clash with a longship captained by the brutal Thorleifsson brothers. Now, Apuluk and Narua set out to rejoin their nomadic clan with Leiv in tow. That friendly visit turns into a punitive expedition after the Thorleifssons massacre most of a native settlement and loot Leiv's new home. The translated narrative reads smoothly, and high production values result in a handsome, open page design. Its visual appeal is enhanced by Cann's stylized but crisply drawn and richly colored images of arctic wildlife and fur-clad human residents. Though wordy descriptions of seasonal cycles and farm life slow down the first several chapters, the pacing picks up on the way to a violent climax, gory ends for the bad guys, and (pointing to developments in volumes to come) Leiv's decision to explore northward in search of a land route to fabled Vinland.

Not a stand-alone, unlike the opener, but still a worthy tale built around a core of clashing cultures and shared human values.   (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84686-744-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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