Out of the nuclear fallout springs a moving tale of love and loss.

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THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS

The citizens of the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, have always been assured that “an accident at a nuclear power station was a statistical impossibility.”

So when the morning of April 26, 1986, dawns red, with “unearthly blue” smoke billowing into the air, life proceeds as normal. Fifth grade classmates and rivals Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko, however, are worried. Their fathers, night-shift plant workers at the Chernobyl power station, have not yet come home. Soon word gets out that reactor No. 4 has exploded, killing several workers and sending the rest en masse to the hospital, poisoned by the very air they breathe. Forced together by the sudden evacuation, the girls must overcome both their hatred of each other and the grief heaped upon them by the accident as they forge a new life in Leningrad with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, who harbors a dangerous secret. Blankman spins a stunningly complex tale out of simple words. By focusing her account on only the two young girls, Blankman situates the seemingly distant horror of the disaster in a firmly human context. Extensive research on historical events, names, cityscapes, and living situations enriches the story, which alternates perspective among Valentina, Oksana, and Rifka, Valentina’s grandmother. Rifka’s chapters take place during World War II, which initially deflects focus from the story somewhat, but they quickly find their place as the story’s heart as they introduce the blackbird, a symbol of eternal friendship. Ukrainian characters are assumed White; Valentina’s family is Jewish.

Out of the nuclear fallout springs a moving tale of love and loss. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3735-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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Though occasionally heavy-handed, this debut offers a vivid glimpse of the 1960s South through the eyes of a spirited girl...

GLORY BE

The closing of her favorite swimming pool opens 11-year-old Gloriana Hemphill’s eyes to the ugliness of racism in a small Mississippi town in 1964.

Glory can’t believe it… the Hanging Moss Community Pool is closing right before her July Fourth birthday. Not only that, she finds out the closure’s not for the claimed repairs needed, but so Negroes can’t swim there. Tensions have been building since “Freedom Workers” from the North started shaking up status quo, and Glory finds herself embroiled in it when her new, white friend from Ohio boldly drinks from the “Colored Only” fountain. The Hemphills’ African-American maid, Emma, a mother figure to Glory and her sister Jesslyn, tells her, “Don’t be worrying about what you can’t fix, Glory honey.” But Glory does, becoming an activist herself when she writes an indignant letter to the newspaper likening “hateful prejudice” to “dog doo” that makes her preacher papa proud. When she’s not saving the world, reading Nancy Drew or eating Dreamsicles, Glory shares the heartache of being the kid sister of a preoccupied teenager, friendship gone awry and the terrible cost of blabbing people’s secrets… mostly in a humorously sassy first-person voice.

Though occasionally heavy-handed, this debut offers a vivid glimpse of the 1960s South through the eyes of a spirited girl who takes a stand. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-33180-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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