Strongly felt, if overstuffed, family drama.


Kindness ultimately prevails, but not before hard times and ugly parochialism have their ways with several small-town residents, particularly three orphaned and then abandoned children.

Cast in the voices of the four Loney children, their neighbors, their dead parents and other witnesses living or otherwise, Porter’s free-verse poems tell a bleak story in plain, bleak language. The children are left to shift for themselves through a hard Saskatchewan winter after a series of miseries. First, their drunkard father freezes to death on the porch after being locked out, then their harsh stepmother abruptly departs with a traveling con man. Finally, the eldest, Randall, goes off to war (this is 1941). Not surprisingly, 14-year-old Nora and her two younger brothers quickly find themselves in desperate straits. The quiet acts of charity that help them get by are almost hidden beneath the weight of the local gossips’ cruel attitudes, the forced departures of the town’s German school teacher and a minister’s daughter sexually abused by her father and such less-public miseries as a postmistress who intercepts the money that Randall sends home and a lonely doctor who discourages his daughter’s recovery from polio. Though an extended side story about Randall’s experiences as a downed aviator in Nazi territory comes off as tangential, the admirably resilient Loneys well merit the ending’s reunions and new lives.

Strongly felt, if overstuffed, family drama. (Historical fiction/verse. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55498-095-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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From the Ape Quartet series , Vol. 1

Congolese-American Sophie makes a harrowing trek through a war-torn jungle to protect a young bonobo.

On her way to spend the summer at the bonobo sanctuary her mother runs, 14-year-old Sophie rescues a sickly baby bonobo from a trafficker. Though her Congolese mother is not pleased Sophie paid for the ape, she is proud that Sophie works to bond with Otto, the baby. A week before Sophie's to return home to her father in Miami, her mother must take advantage
of a charter flight to relocate some apes, and she leaves Sophie with Otto and the sanctuary workers. War breaks out, and after missing a U.N. flight out, Sophie must hide herself and Otto from violent militants and starving villagers. Unable to take Otto out of the country, she decides finding her mother hundreds of miles to the north is her only choice. Schrefer jumps from his usual teen suspense to craft this well-researched tale of jungle survival set during a fictional conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Realistic characters (ape and human) deal with disturbing situations described in graphic, but never gratuitous detail. The lessons Sophie learns about her childhood home, love and what it means to be endangered will resonate with readers.

Even if some hairbreadth escapes test credulity, this is a great next read for fans of our nearest ape cousins or survival adventure. (map, author's note, author Q&A) (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-16576-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Although the stories are heartbreaking, they also offer solace and hope to other youth who may be suffering through similar...



“Where do you go, where do you hide, when the world hurts too much?”

This question is posed to six teens from different backgrounds, all of whom have endured childhoods filled with pain and difficulties. How does 14-year-old Ryan cope with his father’s sudden death and his mother’s frequent suicide attempts? What about Michaela, who had to cook and care for her siblings as a fifth-grader due to her mother’s substance-use disorder and mental illness? Both found it within themselves to draw upon what was left of their inner resources to transcend their circumstances. Television journalist Pitts offers a collection of true stories told by young people who share how they found self-worth while living in adversity. Not all of the stories draw from a dysfunctional home life. At 11, Mason took it upon himself to go on the internet to find ideas about weight loss and exercise, for instance, after he dealt with his failing health and school bullies who brutally teased him about being overweight. Ultimately, the author leans heavily on academic achievement as inspiration, and although education can be an outlet, overachievement isn’t a cure-all for youths who have suffered years of abuse. It’s too bad there is no list of national youth mental health programs and hotlines for readers in need.

Although the stories are heartbreaking, they also offer solace and hope to other youth who may be suffering through similar experiences. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8382-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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