The best Vietnam War novels yet for this age range.

SHARPSHOOTER

From the Vietnam series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of his Vietnam War series, Lynch follows 18-year-old Ivan Bucyk, one of four friends who pledged to go to war together once one was drafted.

Ivan was the one most excited about going. After all, his dad was in World War II, and Ivan grew up on stories of Patton and North Africa. Trained as an elite sniper, Ivan is special, but, predictably, his experience in Vietnam doesn’t match the stories of heroism he grew up on. Here, it’s not clear who the enemy is. He had figured this war would be like the American Civil War, with a clear North and South, but in Vietnam the enemy is all around and impossible to identify. Ivan has quickly come to realize he was a stupid kid when he arrived; now, with a war he can’t explain, he lives for a simple purpose: “I shoot people. That’s it.” And DERUS—“Date Eligible for Return to US”—has become his religion. Since this volume repeats the opening of the first (I Pledge Allegiance, 2011), it easily stands alone, but the series gains richness from the multiple narratives, boding well for the overall story when all four characters have had their say.

The best Vietnam War novels yet for this age range. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-27026-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

  • Newbery Honor Book

HEART OF A SAMURAI

BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF NAKAHAMA MANJIRO

In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro joined four others on an overnight fishing trip. Caught by a severe storm, their small rowboat was shipwrecked on a rocky island. Five months later, they were rescued by the crew of a whaling ship from New Bedford. Manjiro, renamed John Mung, was befriended by the captain and eventually lived in his home in New Bedford, rapidly absorbing Western culture. But the plight of his impoverished family in Japan was never far from Manjiro’s mind, although he knew that his country’s strict isolationist policy meant a death sentence if he returned. Illustrated with Manjiro’s own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy’s adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner is the perfect companion to Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy, by Rhoda Blumberg (2001). (historical note, extensive glossary, bibliography.) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8981-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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