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NO TALKING

A vintage tale from the master of the theme-driven, feel-good school story. Having learned during the preparation of a class report that Mahatma Gandhi habitually spent one day a week not talking, Dave decides to try that out—but in the wake of a lunchroom shouting match with fellow fifth-grader Lynsey, the solo effort escalates into a two-day zipped-lip contest between the whole grade’s infamously noisy boys and girls. As usual, Clements works out the rules and complications in logical ways (three-word replies to direct questions from adults are OK, for instance, which makes for some comical dialogue), casts no sociopaths among his crew of likable, well-intentioned young folk to spoil the experience and makes his points in engagingly indirect ways. The experiment soon takes on profound implications, too, as the collective action turns into civil disobedience when the autocratic principal decides to put a stop to it. By the end, the two camps have become more allies than rivals, and Dave has seen himself and those around him taking strides toward becoming more thoughtful, compassionate people. A strong addition to the “waging peace” genre. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: June 26, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4169-0983-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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SEEDFOLKS

Using the multiple voices that made Bull Run (1995) so absorbing, Fleischman takes readers to a modern inner-city neighborhood and a different sort of battle, as bit by bit the handful of lima beans an immigrant child plants in an empty lot blossoms into a community garden, tended by a notably diverse group of local residents. It's not an easy victory: Toughened by the experience of putting her children through public school, Leona spends several days relentlessly bulling her way into government offices to get the lot's trash hauled away; others address the lack of readily available water, as well as problems with vandals and midnight dumpers; and though decades of waging peace on a small scale have made Sam an expert diplomat, he's unable to prevent racial and ethnic borders from forming. Still, the garden becomes a place where wounds heal, friendships form, and seeds of change are sown. Readers won't gain any great appreciation for the art and science of gardening from this, but they may come away understanding that people can work side by side despite vastly different motives, attitudes, skills, and cultural backgrounds. It's a worthy idea, accompanied by Pedersen's chapter-heading black-and-white portraits, providing advance information about the participants' races and, here and there, ages. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 11, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-027471-9

Page Count: 69

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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RETURN TO SENDER

Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read.

Tyler is the son of generations of Vermont dairy farmers.

Mari is the Mexican-born daughter of undocumented migrant laborers whose mother has vanished in a perilous border crossing. When Tyler’s father is disabled in an accident, the only way the family can afford to keep the farm is by hiring Mari’s family. As Tyler and Mari’s friendship grows, the normal tensions of middle-school boy-girl friendships are complicated by philosophical and political truths. Tyler wonders how he can be a patriot while his family breaks the law. Mari worries about her vanished mother and lives in fear that she will be separated from her American-born sisters if la migra comes. Unashamedly didactic, Alvarez’s novel effectively complicates simple equivalencies between what’s illegal and what’s wrong. Mari’s experience is harrowing, with implied atrocities and immigration raids, but equally full of good people doing the best they can. The two children find hope despite the unhappily realistic conclusions to their troubles, in a story which sees the best in humanity alongside grim realities.

Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85838-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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