Riveting and heartbreaking alike, especially as readers count down the days to the tragedy they know is coming. (Historical...

SEPTEMBER 17

Among the many tragedies of World War II, the largely forgotten sinking of a ship that was ferrying 90 young British children to the safety of Canada must be counted.

The City of Benares left port on Sept. 13, 1940, with the children, their volunteer caretakers and some paying passengers, part of a convoy that was supposed to keep them safe. Three days out, the British destroyer left them in the belief that they had reached safe waters. On Sept. 17, the Benares was torpedoed in a storm and sank rapidly. Seventy-seven of the children died, along with six of their 10 escorts. Lewis picks up the tale as children join the evacuation process, focusing on Ken and Bess, whose experiences shine a light on those of the whole “seavacuee” group, and Sonia, whose family has booked paying passage on the ship. Each child’s voice is distinct and believable. Their heroic experiences after the nighttime sinking—Bess surviving by tying herself to an overturned lifeboat, Sonia on a frigid raft, and Ken, whose overfilled lifeboat sails eight days until rescue—are all vividly, harrowingly realized.

Riveting and heartbreaking alike, especially as readers count down the days to the tragedy they know is coming. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: March 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-88995-507-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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A gem from start to bittersweet finish.

LUCK OF THE TITANIC

Seventeen-year-old Valora Luck boards the Titanic in search of her twin brother—and destiny.

As children, Val and Jamie performed acrobatics to bring in money during lean times, dreaming of one day becoming circus stars. But after their White British mother’s death, Jamie left to work for the Atlantic Steam Company while Val stayed in London to care for their Chinese father. Now, with both parents gone, Val is determined to find what’s left of her family and forge a new path in America. There is, of course, the Chinese Exclusion Act to contend with, but Val is confident that she and Jamie can convince one of the ship’s passengers, a part owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus, to hire them and bring them into the country. Unexpected allies provide help along the way, including an American couture designer and Jamie’s fellow Chinese steamship workers. Issues of racial and class discrimination are seamlessly woven into the story as Val’s adventure takes her through the Titanic’s various decks, from a first-class suite to the boiler rooms. Her wit and pluck give the story such buoyancy that when tragedy strikes, it almost comes as a surprise. Anticipation of the inevitable adds a layer of tension to the narrative, especially with a sober note prefacing the book that informs readers, “Of the eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic, six survived.”

A gem from start to bittersweet finish. (Titanic diagram, list of characters, author's notes) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4098-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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