UNDER THE ROYAL PALMS

A CHILDHOOD IN CUBA

Of books comprising nuggets of memory there seems to be no end, and in a companion volume to her Where the Flame Trees Bloom (1994, not reviewed), Ada recounts small stories of growing up in the town of in CamagÅey, Cuba. She captures with some feeling the powerful effect of scent on memory: night jasmine, coffee, ylang-ylang, and her grandmother’s perfume of lavender and sage. She immortalizes sibling hurts and uncles’ gifts, and writes of the childhood mystery of adult conversations partially overheard and partially understood. She is rich in family, attempting with her grandmother the impossible task of counting bats as they fly, and smashing her favorite doll when her dashing uncle dies in a plane crash. She is rich in memories of other adults, too: Madame Marie, a French-Jewish refugee; Gilda, a dance teacher, whose affection carried Ada through an impossible year at school. Some repetition does not detract, and children might be moved by Ada’s exhortation to consider their own family stories. (b&w photographs) (Memoir. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-80631-0

Page Count: 86

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism.

FREE LUNCH

Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle’s memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.

The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex’s life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school’s free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. “Now everyone knows I’m nothing but trailer trash.” His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex’s mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it’s the beginnings of a friendship with a “weird” schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who’s viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It’s a fine balance carried by the author’s outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.

A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author’s note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00360-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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