With its authentic depiction of the hardships of early-20th-century life and well-rounded characters, this is an agreeable,...

NO-NAME BABY

How does an almost-14-year-old girl handle the tragedy of her mother’s giving birth to one doomed preemie after another?

Sophie feels personally responsible for a two-months-early delivery of a tiny baby boy, since she inadvertently caused the fall that started her mother’s labor too soon. Aunt Rae’s presence makes things more complicated when she comes to help, as she is ill-tempered, often angry and seems determined to make the girl’s life miserable. Aunt Rae is particularly opposed to Sophie’s tender, developing relationship with a neighbor boy, for reasons that at first seem incomprehensible. When she finally begins to reveal a few of the secrets of her unfortunate life, readers should be moved to care for her—as Sophie is—but she’s depicted so unpleasantly, albeit realistically, that they may find it hard to transition to a more empathetic perspective. The generally melancholy mood is lightened by the warm-hearted presence of Sophie’s ever-so-practical Italian grandmother. The rural, post–World War I setting is evocatively evoked, and strong character development drives the quiet plot toward a believable conclusion.

With its authentic depiction of the hardships of early-20th-century life and well-rounded characters, this is an agreeable, ultimately optimistic tale of the strength of the human spirit. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60898-117-5

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Namelos

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • 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

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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

  • Newbery Medal Winner

WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER

A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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