Ambitious but not wholly successful.

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AFTER ZERO

A series of social missteps convinces eighth-grader Elise that remaining silent is preferable to saying the wrong thing and looking foolish.

The transition from home schooling to public school proves more difficult that Elise imagined. Classroom politics, rival friendships, and social media are minefields. And whether it is Bernard Billows’ greasy hair and milky smell or Elise’s own Armenian unibrow, Elise decides that the best way to navigate Green Pasture Middle School is to disappear. Her plan backfires as she manages to alienate her old friend, Mel, and frustrate Conn, a possible ally, leaving her more isolated than ever. When Elise discovers her family’s dark secret, which explains her mother’s neglect and her isolated childhood, she turns inward, falling into hallucinations and fantasy. Elise’s social isolation and pain are realistically portrayed, and her determination to stay silent even when she is accused of stealing and is threatened by Conn’s older brother, Dónal, underscores her distress (even as it may also frustrate readers). Other elements are less-successful. The persistent appearance of a raven that alternately comforts and disturbs Elise hints at an underlying magic that is insufficiently explored. The portrayal of home-schoolers borders on cliché, and the resolution of Elise’s mother’s extreme negligence is far too easy. The book adheres to the white default.

Ambitious but not wholly successful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5532-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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