Solid.

READ REVIEW

THE PACT

A German boy comes of age during World War II.

Peter is only 10 in 1939 when his mother registers him for Gymnasium, an elite school for German children with “pure” families, and the Jungvolk, the social organization for children too young for the Hitler Youth. There he is taught that Aryans are scientifically superior to other races and plays war games. Though there is never enough to eat, Peter and his neighbors are heartened by Chancellor Hitler’s radio promises of success through duty and loyalty. But as the war continues, Peter’s disillusionment grows as he proceeds through the ranks of the believers. When he and his friends return to Hamburg after Hitler’s defeat, they find their city devastated and learn that their revered leader was a sadistic killer responsible for “the murder of six million souls.” The novel takes its time, hewing closely to true events and only really taking off in the last third, when Peter and his friends survive several narrow escapes as they flee their doomed camp. However, Lewis’ detailed setting descriptions will provide readers with an accurate portrait of war-torn Germany, Hungary, and Denmark. Such details as the arithmetic that asks children to calculate how much various quantities of disabled people cost the state and the wholesaler who gives Peter what he calls “one of the last oranges in Germany” bring the reality home to them.

Solid. (glossary, author’s note, author interview) (Historical fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-88995-544-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded.

ANGEL THIEVES

A Texas bayou holds memories and secrets, weaving together people and animals through connected histories.

Buffalo Bayou takes her place as part of an ensemble cast that spans nearly two centuries. Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is a white boy who works alongside his father stealing angel statues from cemeteries for an antiques dealer, and Soleil Broussard is a 16-year-old Creole Christian with a tiny honey bear jar tattooed on her wrist. The two attend school together in present-day Houston, Texas, but the story intertwines their connection with stories of slaves and an ocelot in a narrative that runs away like the rushing of a river. Texas is a gorgeous backdrop for the story, eliciting haunting imagery that spotlights the natural beauty of the state. Each character helps piece together a quilt of experiences that stream from the omnipresent bayou who sees, hears, and protects, and the revelations of their overlapping connections are well-paced throughout. The novel is less successful, however, at underscoring why there are so many voices battling for space in the text. Too-short vignettes that are rather haphazardly forced together provide glimpses into the lives of the characters but make it difficult to follow all of the threads. While an author’s note offers historical background explaining the inspiration for the characters, it does not provide sufficient cohesion.

Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2109-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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