SONG OF THE TREES

Song of the Trees, which won a Council on Interracial Books award, is based on one of the true stories the author's father used to tell about growing up black in Depression-era Mississippi. Here, when Papa is way down in Louisiana laying railroad tracks "so his children can eat," white lumbermen move in and, offering Grandma $65 for all they care to take, begin cutting down trees on the family's land. Cassie's older brother Stacey goes off to fetch Papa, who arrives a few days later (just in time to save Cassie and her younger brothers from a belt-thrashing by Mr. Anderson, the crew leader whose efforts they've been obstructing), prepared, as the intruders come to realize, to blow up the forest if the white men don't clear off at once. In the beginning Cassie, who often listens to the trees singing though her brother says it's only the wind, wakes up to a gray morning—except for the trees of the forest, which "stood dark, almost black, still holding the night." Later she plays under her "wintry-smelling hiding tree" and. then, just before the lumbermen come, she's disturbed by the trees' "eerie silence." This is enough to make us feel their specialness, as elsewhere the prose is plain and direct, the story allowed to tell itself.

Pub Date: April 1, 1975

ISBN: 0142500755

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1975

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
  • 11

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

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

Did you like this book?

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.

NORTHWIND

A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more