An intriguing memoir from a girl who’s become a cultural icon.

The Mongolian teen whose surprising 2014 win at the Golden Eagle Festival was charted in a 2016 documentary retells the story, expanding on her family’s nomadic Kazakh culture and the changes success has brought.

Nurgaiv’s grandfather and others secretly maintained the ancient Kazakh tradition of hunting with eagles, banned in Soviet-era Mongolia, teaching it to their sons. Watching their father teach her brother, Nurgaiv—calm, competitive, athletic—longed to learn herself. Nine years younger, born after many failed pregnancies, she was literally raised with eagles. She relates how she persuaded her parents, found her eaglet, trained and hunted with her, and entered and won the competition. Interwoven with this account is the story of a changing Mongolia amid a changing world. Before Nurgaiv’s training began, tourists—trekkers, journalists, photographers, a filmmaker—came to observe her family, whose livelihood derived in part from their visits. Each milestone on Nurgaiv’s eagle-huntress journey has been documented and shaped, as here, for an audience of outsiders. (Responding to past critiques, Nurgaiv here acknowledges that women eagle hunters competed in Kazakhstan before she did and downplays male opposition she faced.) Mediated by Welch and in translation, Nurgaiv’s voice is inconsistent. While expressions of clichéd adolescent excitement over her celebrity status feel somewhat manufactured, Nurgaiv’s love for and pride in her homeland, culture, and family come through with quiet, persuasive power.

An intriguing memoir from a girl who’s become a cultural icon. (glossary) (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-52261-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless.

Tales of a fourth grade ne’er-do-well.

It seems that young Jordan is stuck in a never-ending string of bad luck. Sure, no one’s perfect (except maybe goody-two-shoes William Feranek), but Jordan can’t seem to keep his attention focused on the task at hand. Try as he may, things always go a bit sideways, much to his educators’ chagrin. But Jordan promises himself that fourth grade will be different. As the year unfolds, it does prove to be different, but in a way Jordan couldn’t possibly have predicted. This humorous memoir perfectly captures the square-peg-in-a-round-hole feeling many kids feel and effectively heightens that feeling with comic situations and a splendid villain. Jordan’s teacher, Mrs. Fisher, makes an excellent foil, and the book’s 1970s setting allows for her cruelty to go beyond anything most contemporary readers could expect. Unfortunately, the story begins to run out of steam once Mrs. Fisher exits. Recollections spiral, losing their focus and leading to a more “then this happened” and less cause-and-effect structure. The anecdotes are all amusing and Jordan is an endearing protagonist, but the book comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome with sheer repetitiveness. Thankfully, it ends on a high note, one pleasant and hopeful enough that readers will overlook some of the shabbier qualities. Jordan is White and Jewish while there is some diversity among his classmates; Mrs. Fisher is White.

Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless. (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64723-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020


An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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