DAWN AND DUSK

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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The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama.

THE PAPER COWBOY

A family crisis pushes a 12-year-old wannabe cowboy living outside Chicago in 1953 to resort to bullying and damaging pranks.

Since his baby sister’s birth, Tommy’s normally moody mother’s been like a “sky full of dark clouds.” When his older sister’s seriously burned, Tommy’s left to cope with her daily newspaper route, his increasingly abusive mother, his overwhelmed father and his younger sisters. Tommy reacts by bullying classmates, especially a shy, overweight new boy at school named Sam. When he’s caught stealing from Sam’s father’s store, Tommy retaliates by planting a copy of a communist newspaper found during a community paper drive in the store. After the owner’s accused of being a communist and the store’s boycotted, Tommy realizes he’s acting like an outlaw instead of a cowboy, and he tries to find the real communist in the neighborhood, leading to surprising discoveries and the help his family desperately needs. Speaking in the first person, Tommy reveals himself as a good-hearted, responsible kid who’s temporarily lost his moral compass. Effective use of cowboy imagery allows Tommy to step up like his hero, Gary Cooper in High Noon, and do the right thing. Period detail and historical references effectively capture the anti-communist paranoia of the McCarthy era.

A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama. (author’s note, photos) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16328-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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