STOLEN WORDS

Five months after a tragic car accident kills an 11-year-old girl’s favorite aunt, she and her family travel to Austria to get away from their grief. “I miss Aunt Beth with all my heart, but I miss my mom even more,” Robyn confides to her new diary. Her old one, a present from Beth, her mother’s sister, was stolen along with the rest of the family’s luggage from a parked car in Vienna. But what was really stolen from Robyn is not her suitcase or even the words in her diary, but her happy interaction with her family, especially her mother. Since the loss of Aunt Beth, Robyn’s mother, once a lively woman with a bold “crazy-bird laugh,” has sunk into a distracted depression. Told with sensitivity and wit in a perfectly pitched preadolescent voice, Robyn’s diary chronicles her mother’s incremental up-and-down progress and her own increasing frustration and attendant guilt. “Maybe I’m a rotten niece . . . but I feel like shouting, ‘C’mon, Mom, get over it already!’ ” she confides to her diary. And just when the reader feels like shouting along with her, a minor accident in an ice cave, a popular tourist attraction, causes Robyn’s mother to snap out of her lethargy, helping a group of frightened, mostly elderly Japanese visitors climb to safety. Even though the subject is sad, the overriding message of the book—despite crushing loss life does continue—is a hopeful one and Koss leavens the mood with her protagonist’s amusing and astute observations. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58485-377-8

Page Count: 145

Publisher: American Girl/Pleasant

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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