THE RIVER BETWEEN US

“Imagine an age when there were still people around who’d seen U.S. Grant with their own eyes, and men who’d voted for Lincoln.” Fifteen-year-old Howard Leland Hutchings visits his father’s family in Grand Tower, Illinois, in 1916, and meets four old people who raised his father. The only thing he knows about them is that they lived through the Civil War. Grandma Tilly, slender as a girl but with a face “wrinkled like a walnut,” tells Howard their story. Sitting up on the Devil’s Backbone overlooking the Mississippi River, she “handed over the past like a parcel.” It’s a story of two mysterious women from New Orleans, of ghosts, soldiers, and seers, of quadroons, racism, time, and the river. Peck writes beautifully, bringing history alive through Tilly’s marvelous voice and deftly handling themes of family, race, war, and history. A rich tale full of magic, mystery, and surprise. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8037-2735-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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THE BIG NOTHING

From the Neighborhood series , Vol. 3

Big brother Duane is off in boot camp, and Justin is left trying to hold the parental units together. Fat, acne-ridden, and missing his best friend Ben, who’s in the throes of his first boy-girl relationship with Cass, Justin’s world is dreary. It gets worse when he realizes that all of his mother’s suspicions about his father are probably true, and that Dad may not return from his latest business trip. Surprisingly ultra-cool Jemmie, who is also missing her best friend, Cass, actually recognizes his existence and her grandmother invites Justin to use their piano in the afternoons when Jemmie’s at cross-country practice. The “big nothing” place, where Justin retreats in time of trouble, is a rhythmic world and soon begins to include melody and provide Justin with a place to express himself. Practice and discipline accompany this gradual exploration of his talent. The impending war in Iraq gives this story a definite place in time, and its distinct characters make it satisfying and surprisingly realistic. Misfit finds fit. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56145-326-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.

PRISONER B-3087

If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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