It was an ordinary day when the bombs fell over Sardasht, Iran. Thirteen-year-old Azad was walking downtown to buy a Pac-Man game. Other people were shopping or at work. Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons—part of a campaign of genocide against the Kurds—was part of the larger war with Iran. Mead’s story opens with Azad in Maine, looking back, trying to convince himself of a time when he and his family were happy before having to flee Iran. Attacks from Iraq and the repressive government of the Ayatollah Khomeini had made life unbearable for ordinary people, and Azad tells his story in an uneasy mix of narrative and explication. Much history is told, but too often at the expense of the story. An excellent introduction provides additional historical perspective, including the culpability of the U.S. for its support of Saddam Hussein. It’s an important story, and any reader, young or old, wishing to know more about Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan and other troubled spots of the modern world would do well to start with Mead’s many informative works. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-31708-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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Using a montage of characters in the manner of Spoon River Anthology, a fine novelist and poet offers 60 vignettes from 16 contrasting individuals who describe experiences from Fort Sumter to Bull Run. Coming from both North and South in equal numbers, the narrators include a colonel and a general (the only historical figure here); a Mississippi slave who hopes the state of Virginia will offer a chance for her to escape her master and for a free black man who passes as white to join an Ohio regiment; a southern matriarch who prays for the survival of her daughters' husbands and a Minnesota Irish lass who, in the end, mourns the death of a brother who ran away to war to escape their abusive father; a fifer boy and a rough Arkansan who's in the cavalry because his passion is horses; a photojournalist; and an ironical coachman, who drives congressmen and their wives out from Washington to sip champagne and view the battle. Bringing a poet's skill to crafting a unique and believable voice for each, Fleischman selects telling incidents to reveal character and to evoke the early course of the war and its impact on ordinary people—some beginning with dreams of glory, all forced to endure the grim reality. He also suggests the possibility of staging the work or performing it as "readers' theater"—a demanding endeavor that could be well worth the effort. An unusual, compelling look at the meaning of war, the Civil War in particular. Maps and illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-021446-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...


Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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