A well-meaning but belabored recognition of introverts, artists, and activists.

HERE IN THE REAL WORLD

An introverted boy fights to save an empty lot from auction.

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Ware can’t wait to spend the Florida summer with his grandmother, enjoying “long hours free and alone.” Other adults—including his overprotective, hyperefficient mother and sports-loving father—discourage his being “off in his own world.” But when his grandmother takes a fall, he must trade privacy for “Meaningful Social Interaction” in the Summer Rec program. He finds sanctuary in nearby church ruins, where he meets cynical, secretive Jolene and bird activist Ashley. When the property is slated for auction, medieval-history buff Ware invokes the “Knights’ Code”—a feminist but nonetheless romanticized version of the code of chivalry—resolving to “be always the champion of the Right and the Good” and defend their refuge. Victory, however, takes unexpected forms. Though Pennypacker’s exploration of what “fairness” means is thought-provoking, one-dimensional characterization weakens such powerful themes as abuse, self-advocacy, and self-acceptance. Tough-but-wounded Jolene is little more than a foil for the nearly angelic Ware, whose acute empathy even perceives a cut plant’s “cry of betrayal.” (The intense pain his empathy causes him goes unexamined.) Though introverted or sensitive kids may recognize Ware’s poignant struggles to connect with his parents, his heavy-handed portrayal—which his uncle folds neatly into the sensitive-artist trope—blunts some emotional impact. Most characters, including the kids, appear white; a supportive grocer is Greek.

A well-meaning but belabored recognition of introverts, artists, and activists. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269895-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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