Maurice’s journey teaches readers to never give up.

MAURICE AND HIS DICTIONARY

A TRUE STORY

A little bit of luck, the kindness of strangers, and a teenage boy’s perseverance drive this elegant story set during the Holocaust.

All Belgian 14-year-old Maurice Fajgenbaum wants is to become a lawyer, but the Nazi invasion makes him and his family refugees. They flee city after city, depending on a combination of their own resourcefulness and the kindness of strangers. As they make their tumultuous journey through wartime Europe before finally securing passage on a ship to a relocation camp on the island of Jamaica, they are guided by Maurice’s father’s mantra: “Solve one problem, and then the next, and then the next.” Even in hiding and in limbo, Maurice’s parents support his education, and Maurice problem-solves wave upon wave of setbacks before finally graduating from high school while still in the camp and embarking on university studies in Canada to realize his dream. While Maurice’s English dictionary does not play as central a role in the story as the title suggests, this story is still a fascinating tale of perseverance based on a true story. The sepia-toned illustrations in neat graphic panels help readers appreciate the story’s historicity, contrasting with warmly hued forays into Maurice’s imagination. Finally, the readers guide in the back of the book features photographs of the real Maurice and some substantive historical backstory.

Maurice’s journey teaches readers to never give up. (Graphic historical fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77147-323-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A critical contribution to discussions of equal access and of systemic racism.

WITHOUT SEPARATION

PREJUDICE, SEGREGATION, AND THE CASE OF ROBERTO ALVAREZ

Separate but equal—even primary grade students understand this prejudicial oxymoron.

Separation is never equal. When the Lemon Grove School District’s board of trustees decided to expel every one of the 75 students who were of Mexican American descent in order to establish an all-White student body, the Lemon Grove Neighbor’s Committee—Comité de Vecinos de Lemon Grove—decided to take action. The Mexican consul in San Diego provided lawyers who filed on behalf of 12-year-old Roberto Alvarez in San Diego’s California Superior Court. Exploding the board of trustees’ assertion that the minority students were “backward and deficient,” Roberto himself, in fluent English, defended his position. This was the “first successfully fought school desegregation case in the United States.” On April 16, 1931, the decision was made public: “to immediately admit and receive…Roberto Alvarez, and all other pupils of Mexican parentage…without separation or segregation.” Brimner’s straightforward narrative follows Roberto Alvarez from his return to school after Christmas vacation only to be told he was no longer welcome to the day he was able to receive the same education as the White students. The substantial author’s note places this case in context with other desegregation cases in the U.S.—particularly in California. Gonzalez’s colorful and detailed mural-esque illustrations make the historical flavor of the times accessible.

A critical contribution to discussions of equal access and of systemic racism. (photos, sources, source notes) (Informational picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68437-195-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Formulaic but rousingly gruesome in some spots and thought-provoking in others.

I SURVIVED THE ATTACK OF THE GRIZZLIES, 1967

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the I Survived Graphic Novel series , Vol. 5

A child mourning the loss of her mom “bears” witness to the consequences of strewing the natural landscape with garbage.

In this graphic-novel adaptation of a 2018 entry in Tarshis’ long-running I Survived series—in which invented storylines are layered over historical incidents—it’s 1967, and Mel (Vega in the original, though her last name is never mentioned here) has reluctantly agreed to continue a family tradition in the wake of her mother’s death by visiting her grandpa in Montana’s Glacier National Park. She is terrified when a bear attacks the cabin door one night. Later, she and Cassie, a writer friend of her mom’s, meet up with a researcher whose own father had been bloodily killed in an earlier attack and discover that a local resort has been dumping garbage nearby to draw bears for a nightly show that people, including even park rangers, avidly gather to watch. That evening, in a narrow escape that is also put to use as an opening teaser, Mel herself is savagely wounded. Two deaths that occurred in real life that summer, plus the shooting of the bears involved (talk about blaming the victims!), happen offstage, but the live and dead bears in Pekmezci’s neatly drawn wilderness scenes look feral enough to have readers attending closely to the safety guidelines in the backmatter—and understanding the dangers of letting wild animals become dependent on our detritus. Like others in the series, this one follows a predictable trajectory, but readers should find it absorbing. Mel is brown-skinned, Cassie appears to be Black, and the researcher is light-skinned.

Formulaic but rousingly gruesome in some spots and thought-provoking in others. (afterword, photos, timeline, resource lists) (Graphic novel. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-76691-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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