This chronicle of uncompromisingly sticking to one’s unique perspective is, alas, also a fairly dull one.

GIRL WITH BRUSH AND CANVAS

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE, AMERICAN ARTIST

Growing from a stubbornly individualistic girl to “one of the most important abstract artists in the country,” Georgia O’Keeffe is depicted as a true American pioneer.

The story opens with young narrator “Georgie” making the remarkably self-aware observation: “I did not have in mind just drawing pretty pictures—I was going to be an artist. There was a difference.” What follows is a fictionalized chronicle of her life from 12 to 42 years old, traversing her life from childhood in small-town Wisconsin and Virginia through teachers and art schools in Chicago and New York to adult life in Texas and New Mexico. Periodically, she experiences revelations of art techniques and style, with romantic relationships (none same-sex) manifesting later. Georgia addresses gender inequality of the times, for instance vocalizing how much she hates being known as a “woman artist”—but not racism, despite the white character’s time in the South. Peers and authority figures encourage her to conform to custom, but she refuses, preferring instead to be “provocative” and embracing her “misfit” status. As developed by Meyer, Georgia’s character possesses stalwart self-confidence bordering on hauteur. In part a tour of early-20th-century American landscapes and also part school story and part biography, the narrative sometimes reads like a recitation of facts that at times veers into first-person observations. Meyer reports emotions in an omniscient adult voice, but they remain flat, with little emotional resonance for readers; the stiff style and small type skew this novel’s readership older than its putative middle-grade audience.

This chronicle of uncompromisingly sticking to one’s unique perspective is, alas, also a fairly dull one. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-934-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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