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Exciting, tragic, and gritty.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster changes the lives of three Soviet teenagers.

Yuri, who’s 16, his 13-year-old cousin, Alina, and their friend Sofiya live comfortable lives in Pripyat, Ukraine—until the morning of April 26, 1986. Yuri is a loyal Soviet citizen and an intern at the power plant who dreams of joining the ranks of nuclear engineers. He is mopping the floors when he hears the explosions of the reactor accident. Sofiya’s father, a nuclear engineer, warns her to stay inside and rushes to the plant to help. Meanwhile, Alina, who is portrayed with what seems to be undiagnosed OCD, is forced to leave her friend and cousin behind as her family is secretly hustled out of the city by a Communist Party official who knows the truth. All characters are presumably White. Though the author admittedly takes a few liberties and the story is fictionalized, the book is well researched and vividly portrays the Chernobyl disaster. The author includes details that paint a picture of the time and place, sprinkling italicized Russian terms and their explanations throughout. He walks a delicate line in dealing with these tragic and politically complex events, mostly with success. A few gory moments may disturb some readers, but excluding them would sanitize the human cost of the disaster. Political maneuvering and corruption are introduced but are insufficiently explored as a cause of the tragedy.

Exciting, tragic, and gritty. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-71845-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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This delightful debut welcomes readers in like a house filled with love.

A 13-year-old biracial girl longs to build the house of her dreams.

For Lou Bulosan-Nelson, normal is her “gigantic extended family squished into Lola’s for every holiday imaginable.” She shares a bedroom with her Filipina mother, Minda—a former interior-design major and current nurse-to-be—in Lola Celina’s San Francisco home. From her deceased white father, Michael, Lou inherited “not-so-Filipino features,” his love for architecture, and some land. Lou’s quietude implies her keen eye for details, but her passion for creating with her hands resonates loudly. Pining for something to claim as her own, she plans to construct a house from the ground up. When her mom considers moving out of state for a potential job and Lou’s land is at risk of being auctioned off, Lou stays resilient, gathering support from both friends and family to make her dream a reality. Respicio authentically depicts the richness of Philippine culture, incorporating Filipino language, insights into Lou’s family history, and well-crafted descriptions of customs, such as the birdlike Tinikling dance and eating kamayan style (with one’s hands), throughout. Lou’s story gives voice to Filipino youth, addressing cultural differences, the importance of bayanihan (community), and the true meaning of home.

This delightful debut welcomes readers in like a house filled with love. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1794-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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