Mildly inspirational at best.

FLIGHT OF THE PUFFIN

Three seventh graders struggle with family, community, and self.

Libby and Jack live in a rural Vermont populated with broadly drawn families: entitled men, submissive mothers, bullies, and government-averse hunters with a fear of gender nonconformity. After opening in Vermont, the story shifts to Vincent, who lives in Seattle and is mocked by his peers due to his obsession with triangles, love of puffins, and unconventional clothing choices. The contrived conflict vaguely centers around trans and nonbinary youth, who are positioned as a problem to be resolved. A local bureaucrat threatens to withhold funds for Jack’s school, citing a number of policy violations, including the absence of a gender-neutral restroom. Jack defends his school’s right to run as it pleases, and, in the process, the well-meaning but clumsy boy makes comments that a horde of strangers—some angry, some more constructive in tone—interprets as transphobic. Ultimately, the comments lead him to understand things differently, including a matter that cuts close to home. Vincent meets T, a nonbinary homeless youth whose perspective is wrought through brief, poetic italics and who functions mainly to teach Vincent important lessons about gratitude and strength. Libby, the least involved in the conflict, also has the least-developed story arc and mainly functions to unite the narratives through postcards. This story puts forward many messages but never coheres as a story and treats trans and nonbinary youth as convenient plot points rather than fully developed human beings. Characters default to White.

Mildly inspirational at best. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984816-06-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some.

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WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED

A Somali boy living in a refugee camp in Kenya tries to make a future for himself and his brother in this near memoir interpreted as a graphic novel by collaborator Jamieson.

Omar Mohamed lives in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya with his younger brother, Hassan, who has a seizure disorder, and Fatuma, an elderly woman assigned to foster them in their parents’ absence. The boys’ father was killed in Somalia’s civil war, prompting them to flee on foot when they were separated from their mother. They desperately hope she is still alive and looking for them, as they are for her. The book covers six years, during which Omar struggles with decisions about attending school and how much hope to have about opportunities to resettle in a new land, like the United States. Through Omar’s journey, and those of his friends and family members, readers get a close, powerful view of the trauma and uncertainty that attend life as a refugee as well as the faith, love, and support from unexpected quarters that get people through it. Jamieson’s characteristically endearing art, warmly colored by Geddy, perfectly complements Omar’s story, conjuring memorable and sympathetic characters who will stay with readers long after they close the book. Photographs of the brothers and an afterword provide historical context; Mohamed and Jamieson each contribute an author’s note.

This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some. (Graphic memoir. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55391-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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