THE BICYCLE MAN

A delightful story, reportedly a memory from Say's childhood, of the children's first encounter with American soldiers at a 1946 spring sports day in a Japanese elementary school. Say shows us charming little figures, with just a whiff of resemblance to early Sendak tykes, rushing about in streaming red headbands: preparing the playground, then dashing around the track in the first-grader's race, and later racing piggyback and pulling in the tug-of-war. Boxed prizes are awarded, and then we see the families picnicking on their mats, unloading spiced rice and fish cakes and other "good things to eat" from their layered lacquer boxes. It is during the grownups' three-legged race that the soldiers appear—one of them "with bright hair like fire," the other "black as the earth" and "the tallest man I had ever seen. And his clothes! Such sharp creases! And his shoes shone like polished metal!" Borrowing the principal's bicycle, the black American then puts on a show that leaves the crowd agape—from the first wheelie ("What an athlete!" exclaims the art teacher) to the flying finale. When the cheering stops, the principal leads the soldier to the platform and presents him with the largest box from the prize table. Handing it over, "He looked like the emperor awarding a great champion." And so, with an "Ari-ga-tow, ari-ga-tow" (thank you, thank you), the two soldiers go off down the mountain, "waving and laughing." Say makes no comments and none are needed. Savor it, share it, and let the Japanese traditions and the wonderful meetings speak for themselves.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 1982

ISBN: 0395506522

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Mount Parnassus Press

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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