GODDESS OF YESTERDAY

Anaxandra’s adventures begin as a small child, when she is taken hostage from her father, the king of a tiny unnamed island in the Aegean Sea. She becomes the companion of the crippled princess Callisto of Siphnos. When that island is sacked, Anaxandra alone is left alive and she pretends to be Callisto in the eyes of Menelaus, who takes her back to Sparta. It is there that the girl, now 12, accomplished with a slingshot, and resourceful in many ways, meets Menelaus’s queen, Helen. In Cooney’s telling, Helen is an exquisite monster: so beautiful that people die for her; but cold, careless, and utterly self-involved. When the besotted Trojan prince Paris takes Helen off to Troy, Anaxandra assumes another identity, to protect her own life and that of Helen’s youngest child. The gods and goddesses are very real to Anaxandra, whose prayers and beseeching are answered only occasionally. The full horrors of war and the brutality of even the noblest of lives in ancient Greece (although the land now known as Greece was many independent principalities then) are related in Anaxandra’s perceptive voice, in a heightened language that seems natural for her. Characters from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and much of Greek tragedy make appearances in Anaxandra’s tale, one that is as vivid as her red-gold hair. Teen readers will be mesmerized. (afterword) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: June 11, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-72945-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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