THAT NIGHT'S TRAIN

Short and simply told, but hard to follow and likely to have less meaning to children than to reflective older readers with...

A writer’s broken promise to a motherless child frames ruminations on story crafting and the sometimes conflicting imperatives of life and art.

In a shifting patchwork of narratives and points of view, Iranian author Akbarpour (Good Night, Commander, 2010) opens with a chance meeting between 5-year-old Banafsheh and a friendly, unnamed children’s writer who promises to call in a few days. When the call never comes, Banafsheh’s delight changes to feelings of anger and betrayal that simmer even after her loving father reads her one of the writer’s tales about a sundered friendship between a child and an old man. Meanwhile, the writer presents the original encounter as an open-ended story to a class of fifth-graders, and their sometimes poignant suggestions about what happens next prompt thoughts about how authors must sometimes be ruthless, even cruel in serving the demands of their work. But the revelation that the real friendship that inspired the other, embedded story took a different and happier course prompts the writer to make good on her promise at last—and even, in a fence-mending sacrifice, to destroy her manuscript.

Short and simply told, but hard to follow and likely to have less meaning to children than to reflective older readers with authorial ambitions of their own. (Fiction. 12-14, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-169-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

THE BOY AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN

Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively...

A young boy grows up in Adolf Hitler’s mountain home in Austria.

Seven-year-old Pierrot Fischer and his frail French mother live in Paris. His German father, a bitter ex-soldier, returned to Germany and died there. Pierrot’s best friend is Anshel Bronstein, a deaf Jewish boy. After his mother dies, he lives in an orphanage, until his aunt Beatrix sends for him to join her at the Berghof mountain retreat in Austria, where she is housekeeper for Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. It is here that he becomes ever more enthralled with Hitler and grows up, proudly wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth, treating others with great disdain, basking in his self-importance, and then committing a terrible act of betrayal against his aunt. He witnesses vicious acts against Jews, and he hears firsthand of plans for extermination camps. Yet at war’s end he maintains that he was only a child and didn’t really understand. An epilogue has him returning to Paris, where he finds Anshel and begins a kind of catharsis. Boyne includes real Nazi leaders and historical details in his relentless depiction of Pierrot’s inevitable corruption and self-delusion. As with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006), readers both need to know what Pierrot disingenuously doesn’t and are expected to accept his extreme naiveté, his total lack of awareness and comprehension in spite of what is right in front of him.

Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively simple reading level. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-030-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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