A flawed but unique title, a useful supplement to other books about the night sky.

STORIES OF THE AURORA

From the Dot to Dot in the Sky series

Legends and folklore connected to the heavenly light show we call the aurora accompany facts and explanations from present-day science.

As in other titles in her Dot to Dot in the Sky series, Galat interweaves material from ancient cultures with modern scientific explanations in order to enhance readers’ sense of wonder about the night sky. Opening with general chapters describing the phenomenon, current scientific understandings, and folklore from both Northern and Southern hemispheres, she then goes on to give examples of cultures who interpret these mysterious lights as omens, fire, and dancers. Chapters are devoted to Inuit beliefs about sky spirits, stories from Norse and Greek mythologies, and tales from Canadian First Nations groups, the Wabanaki and the Mi’kmaq. Finally, she tells readers how and where to look for auroras, pointing to her website rather than NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center or the Canadian Space Agency’s live feed. Each chapter includes sidebars with even more detail about topics such as the Earth’s magnetic field, specific auroral qualities, and magnetic storms. The information is accurate and competently explained and the stories well-told. Illustrations include color photographs, characters from the stories, and diagrams. Sadly, other than the general attribution, no sources are given for the various tales.

A flawed but unique title, a useful supplement to other books about the night sky. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77050-210-9

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Whitecap

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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