A book in which purpose and art intertwine successfully.

Chance Devlin, 12, entered a suicide pact with two of her friends. Her friends followed through. She did not.

The loss of her friends along with the guilt Chance feels for bailing on them results in a very difficult time. She loses her appetite and her will to function in her day-to-day life, and she must also deal with bullying in the form of harsh notes from her classmates, notes that Chance feels she deserves. Chance receives counseling and is also encouraged to journal her thoughts. Even with all this and the support of her parents, Chance is still doubtful at the prospect of improvement. And then a mysterious young fox begins appearing to Chance, and the connection made proves to be the help Chance needs to confront her past and begin to heal, effectively conveyed in a meticulous present-tense third-person narration. This slim book may prove helpful for young people experiencing depression or similar challenges, demonstrating the importance and benefit of having and drawing on a support system along with getting professional help. The loving presence and behavior of the adults in Chance’s life speak volumes, communicating a necessary message of unity. Chance is a white girl, but her Saskatchewan school is a diverse one, and she has several Indigenous classmates in her grade. An author interview, afterword on mental health, and internet resources will surely prove useful.

A book in which purpose and art intertwine successfully. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88995-552-3

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018


Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010


Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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