WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE

In World War II, the United States fought Japan for control of the Pacific islands, but what about the people who already lived on those islands? This brief and powerful story will help to keep alive the memory of indigenous families caught in the crossfire between the Japanese and American armies. Kento, son of a Japanese official, and Joseph, a villager, are friends on the island of Saipan in the spring of 1944, and it is their friendship and experiences during the war, related in Joseph’s first-person point of view, that will bring history home. The final scene, in which thousands of Japanese men, women and children make suicidal leaps off Bonzai Cliff into the sea—and others are butchered before they ever get to the precipice—is so horrifying that this small tale will long linger. The understated design, which includes Japanese characters in the chapter titles and brief, impressionistic poems as chapter lead-ins, makes this volume stand out. An important and little-known perspective on World War II. (historical note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59078-661-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Front Street/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Explanatory note; reading list.

DRAGON'S GATE

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

Yep illuminates the Chinese immigrant experience here and abroad in a follow-up to The Serpent's Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985).

After accidentally killing one of the hated Manchu soldiers, Otter (14) flees Kwangtung for the "Golden Mountain"; he finds his adoptive father Squeaky and Uncle Foxfire in the Sierra Nevada, where thousands of "Guests" are laboriously carving a path for the railroad. Brutal cold, dangerous work, and a harsh overseer take their toll as Squeaky is blinded in a tunnel accident, Foxfire is lost in a storm, and other workers are frozen or half-starved. By the end, toughened in body and spirit, Otter resolves never to forget them or their sacrifices. Foxfire and Otter consider themselves only temporary residents here, preparing for the more important work of modernizing their own country while ridding it of Manchu, Europeans, and, especially, the scourge of opium. America is a dreamlike place; English dialogue is printed in italics as a tongue foreign to most of the characters; and though Otter befriends the overseer's troubled son, such social contact is discouraged on both sides. In a story enlivened with humor and heroism, Yep pays tribute to the immigrants who played such a vital role in our country's history.

Explanatory note; reading list. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-022971-3

Page Count: 276

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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