ZEBRA

AND OTHER STORIES

In six quietly powerful stories, Potok (The Sky of Now, 1995; for adults, The Gates of November, 1996; etc.) explores varieties of inner and outer healing, both in individuals and in families: “Zebra” begins to regain use of his crushed hand and leg creating art assigned by an itinerant teacher; after the deaths of her father and brother, “Isabel” finds unexpected solace in the company of her new stepsister; the spirit of “Max,” a larger-than-life family hero killed in Vietnam, resurfaces in the next generation not in his namesake, as expected, but in young Emmie; although her father returns after a brief desertion, “B.B.” loses the utter trust of her childhood; “Moon” lets out his adolescent rage in an explosive musical tribute to a murdered Pakistani child slave. In the collection’s haunting centerpiece, “Nava” uses her father’s experiences in war, and his connection with a Navajo healer, to fend off a frighteningly persistent drug dealer. The families represented are all middle class or upper-middle class, but the relationships, the feelings of loss, grief, regret, hope, and relief are universal; readers sensitive to nuances of language and situation will be totally absorbed by these profound character studies. (Short stories. 11-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-85440-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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