Lush, imaginative, and emotionally insightful.

Six months after Dad’s fatal heart attack, his grieving family moves to his hometown.

Lonely Savi is just shy of 14. Her older sister escapes into social media. Mom is withdrawn, cleaning obsessively. Leaving polluted Delhi, the Kumars settle in Shajarpur, renowned for its perfect climate and clean air, along with Dad’s 42 houseplants, withering without his care. Savi is determined to save them, and soon something strange happens: Whenever she touches a plant, she has visions, glimpses into her father’s youth, Shajarpur’s history, and threats to its future. At her new school, Savi meets Tree, an enormous Ficus mysorensis, or fig tree, who communicates especially powerfully with her. She joins the school ecology club but is also approached by the uber-wealthy Very Cool and Hip People, who make her feel insecure. Hiding her new powers, Savi is torn between the two groups until the shocking announcement that Tree, who seems to be dying, will be cut down. Tree’s decline also mirrors a negative shift in Shajarpur’s weather. The growing urgency forces Savi outside her comfort zone as the story builds to a climax that exposes a shadowy group of conspirators. Narrated in Savi’s fresh, humorous voice, this dreamy, atmospheric story skillfully explores the dynamics of grief. The nuanced conclusion reinforces central themes of interconnection between people and environment and the joyful, healing properties of nature. The often playful tone helps soften the serious subject matter, and Eipe’s spot art whimsically references the environmental content.

Lush, imaginative, and emotionally insightful. (Eco-fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2023

ISBN: 9798212181747

Page Count: 205

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012


From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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