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BEAUTY AND THE SERPENT

THIRTEEN TALES OF UNNATURAL ANIMALS

The author follows Hearsay: Strange Tales from the Middle Kingdom (1998) with a similar set of original stories and reworked folk tales. There are considerably more than the subtitle’s 13, as Porte is fond of embedding stories within stories; these feature an array of exotic and (outwardly) familiar creatures, from a Japanese fox wife to a rooster with rattlesnake blood and a puppy who really is from hell. Younger children will be entertained by the traditional “Haunted House” (“ ‘Hey, guy, you still gonna be here when Stella comes?’ ”) and an orphan’s happy discovery that cats really do live in escalators (listen closely the next time you ride one). The title story, in which a cobra tattoo nearly kills a teenager, is one of several others that will engage older readers and listeners. Most of the stories are related to a teenage audience by Lavinia Drumm, a school librarian who, being 6’1” tall, with a taste for colorful clothing and an unspecified foot problem (a cloven hoof, perhaps?) is herself a grandly exotic presence. They are illustrated with dark wood engravings of ominous, often toothy figures with deep eyes. Ever a talented talespinner, Porte is in top form here, and even non-librarians are going to want to hear more from Ms. Drumm. (Short stories. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84147-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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ASK ME NO QUESTIONS

Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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