DREAM FREEDOM

Writing from several points of view, Levitin relates the story of modern-day slavery in Sudan and of the destruction of village and family life that civil war has brought to that beleaguered country. Marcus, a grade-school student in the United States, learns about the situation in Sudan from his teacher, and with his classmates, raises money to contribute toward buying slaves their freedom, which can be purchased for as little as 50 dollars. Dabora, a slave in northern Sudan, dreams of freedom and of the daughter she left behind in the ruined village that the soldiers destroyed. The daughter, who now lives with an old woman in the village, often asks the old woman about the mother she barely remembers and the father whom the soldiers murdered. Two twin girls, wondering where their father disappears to so often and suspecting him of having an affair, follow him one night and discover that he helps rescue slaves, a dangerous activity that could easily get him arrested, or worse. Aziz, 12, the son of a wealthy family who have always had slaves to take care of the cooking, cleaning, farming, and any other menial and undesirable job, also makes a discovery on the day his father allows him to go to work with him. As he watches his father trade arms for slaves, Aziz is shocked and horrified when his father beats one of them. Aziz knows that one day, when he is older, he will fight to abolish slavery from his country. While well-meaning and certainly instructive, this novel works less well on a literary level. The author has written the book to make young readers aware of the problem of slavery in Sudan and the story and characterizations suffer as a result. The chapters are choppy and the connections between each of the chapters and its characters are hard to follow. The language is often opaque and unclear. Although the story is intended for 10-14-year-olds, readers older than Marcus, the character who ties the story together and who seems to be a fifth- or, at most, sixth-grader, will find him immature and hence be put off the story. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202404-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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DAVID GOES TO SCHOOL

The poster boy for relentless mischief-makers everywhere, first encountered in No, David! (1998), gives his weary mother a rest by going to school. Naturally, he’s tardy, and that’s but the first in a long string of offenses—“Sit down, David! Keep your hands to yourself! PAY ATTENTION!”—that culminates in an afterschool stint. Children will, of course, recognize every line of the text and every one of David’s moves, and although he doesn’t exhibit the larger- than-life quality that made him a tall-tale anti-hero in his first appearance, his round-headed, gap-toothed enthusiasm is still endearing. For all his disruptive behavior, he shows not a trace of malice, and it’ll be easy for readers to want to encourage his further exploits. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-48087-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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