ALL THE BROKEN PIECES

Matt Pin’s story, told in first-person verse, opens with the evacuation of refugees near the end of the Vietnam War. Afterward Matt, an Amerasian, is adopted by a loving American family. Two years later, he remains haunted by a past in which his soldier father abandoned him, his mother gave him up and his brother was maimed before his eyes. He suffers deeply from prejudice when he tries out for the school baseball team and from his misunderstanding of both his biological and adoptive families’ motives. Through the efforts of two veterans, Matt begins to understand that his mother gave him away because she loved him, not because he was culpable in the crippling of his brother. In recognizing the analogous suffering endured by others touched by the war, Matt begins to resolve the conflicts of his spirit. Graceful symmetries between brother and brother, father and son, past and present, guilt and forgiveness shed light on the era and the individual. The verse form carries highly charged emotions and heavy content with elegiac simplicity. A memorable debut. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-545-08092-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Explanatory note; reading list.

DRAGON'S GATE

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

Yep illuminates the Chinese immigrant experience here and abroad in a follow-up to The Serpent's Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985).

After accidentally killing one of the hated Manchu soldiers, Otter (14) flees Kwangtung for the "Golden Mountain"; he finds his adoptive father Squeaky and Uncle Foxfire in the Sierra Nevada, where thousands of "Guests" are laboriously carving a path for the railroad. Brutal cold, dangerous work, and a harsh overseer take their toll as Squeaky is blinded in a tunnel accident, Foxfire is lost in a storm, and other workers are frozen or half-starved. By the end, toughened in body and spirit, Otter resolves never to forget them or their sacrifices. Foxfire and Otter consider themselves only temporary residents here, preparing for the more important work of modernizing their own country while ridding it of Manchu, Europeans, and, especially, the scourge of opium. America is a dreamlike place; English dialogue is printed in italics as a tongue foreign to most of the characters; and though Otter befriends the overseer's troubled son, such social contact is discouraged on both sides. In a story enlivened with humor and heroism, Yep pays tribute to the immigrants who played such a vital role in our country's history.

Explanatory note; reading list. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-022971-3

Page Count: 276

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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