Uneven verse and thin explanation don’t carry this telling of a recent, relevant historical outrage.

37 DAYS AT SEA

ABOARD THE M.S. ST. LOUIS, 1939

An 11-year-old refugee just wants to start fresh in the United States after her flight from Nazi Germany on the St. Louis.

Ruthie Arons misses her dog, her grandmother, and her home in Breslau. But her family’s been ordered to leave Germany, so Ruthie and her parents are America-bound. On the St. Louis, all passengers are European Jewish refugees, and the crew are White Germans. Although it’s 1939, many of the crew are not Nazis, and the captain tries to make things as decent for the passengers as he can. The free-verse chapters recounting Ruthie’s journey vary in quality; many read like prose broken into short lines, filler between more artfully crafted poems. They’re most successful when they focus tightly on Ruthie: the pranks she and her friend play on the passengers and crew or the surreal vision of refugees fleeing on a cruise liner complete with a pool, shuffleboard, and movies. Less successful are the poems peppered with true details from the tragic voyage of the real St. Louis—a ship that the United States, disgracefully, turned back to Europe, where nearly a third of the passengers were murdered by Nazis. Ruthie is not very interested with these adult events and thus describes them without context, background, or emotional punch.

Uneven verse and thin explanation don’t carry this telling of a recent, relevant historical outrage. (historical note, timeline, reading list) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7912-5

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

Did you like this book?

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more