BROKEN CHORDS

Gilbert (Stone Water, 1996, etc.) writes sympathetically about a musical prodigy who yearns to be a normal teenager; a story that could have easily fallen to clichÇ becomes a penetrating study of the difference between technical brilliance and true virtuosity. Clara Alexander Lorenzo has never really considered her parents’ pronouncements that she must share her gifts with the world; suddenly, at 17, and a finalist in a competition that would assure her a full scholarship at Juilliard, she finds that the idea of becoming a concert pianist leaves her hollow. In this involving novel, the other characters are acutely drawn, each representing a part of Clara herself—Holly, her cheerleading best friend; Marshall, a committed pianist and intense love-interest; her parents, whose hopes and dreams are wrapped up in music; and Tashi, her gentle, guiding teacher, whose wisdom, perceptions, and stories of her sacrifices in her Russian homeland give Clara courage. Descriptive passages of playing are well-crafted, and Clara’s doubts about the piano are effectively juxtaposed with her passion for ballet’she is not particularly adept, but it stirs something in her. The tension builds to the competition, ending with Clara’s decision and small, unexpected gestures from the people she loves. A compassionate work. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1998

ISBN: 1-886910-23-5

Page Count: 188

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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