Educational and inspiring.

MY BRIGADISTA YEAR

Paterson offers a coming-of-age tale about a girl stepping up to be part of something greater than herself in post-revolution Cuba.

It’s 1961 in Havana, and 13-year-old Lora, inspired by the revolutionary sense of freedom in the air and her dreams of pushing past the expectations of gender and circumstance placed on her, has decided she wants to be part of Premier Fidel Castro’s campaign to make Cuba a literate nation in one year. Soon she finds herself in the countryside with the Conrado Benitez Brigade, teaching and working alongside her campesino host family. But the specter of war and unrest is everywhere, as is the tension between resisting and embracing the coming social change. Readers should not expect an action-packed tale, but the writing is straightforward and moves at a swift pace. Folding in snippets of unitalicized Spanish, Paterson offers a glimpse of the daily life of a brigadista, redressing the cursory associations many have about Castro’s Cuba. Hers is a positive study of an amazing moment in history that nonetheless acknowledges the darker political machinations at play. An unnecessary epilogue threatens to undo the nuance of the novel, but the themes of literacy, freedom, and community stay strong.

Educational and inspiring. (author’s note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9508-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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

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REFUGEE

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

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An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and...

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS

Coming soon!!

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-395-53680-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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