THE OTHER SIDE OF TRUTH

Gripping suspense rules as Naidoo describes a young girl’s world turned upside down by political events, first in Nigeria and then London. On the first page, Sade’s mother is shot and killed by policemen, and she and her younger brother Femi are suddenly spirited out of their home country. Sade’s father is an idealistic honest journalist, committed to telling the truth about the ruling “Buttons,” as he terms the Generals. Things go from bad to worse as the roadblocks and officials in Nigeria turn out to be less dangerous than their accompanying protectoress. Abandoned penniless and poorly dressed for November in London, Sade and Femi find their uncle has disappeared and they are homeless. Hoping only that they can hang on until their father can leave Nigeria as well, the two find themselves thrown into the social-services mill and taken into a foster home, struggling to apply for political asylum without endangering anyone in Nigeria. The foster homes, school system, and another refugee from Somalia, Mariam, alternately provide comfort and challenge. Naidoo ably sticks to Sade’s immediate need to be true to her own values and needs, focusing on her memories of home and cultural icons as she looks for help. The larger political message that children should feel safe and not have to fear for their lives in any country is effortlessly apparent, as is the fact that both Nigeria and Britain have a way to go in claiming safety and justice for all. Far from being a patronizing glimpse of life in the third world, this is a vivid portrayal of complex people caught in complex webs using their own culture for strength in a time of need. Real-world scary. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029628-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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