In all, it's an entertaining boy-and-dog adventure set against a not-often-depicted era of political strife that’s notably...

ME & JACK

Joshua, 11 or 12, knows all the hidden rules for making new friends, because his father is a frequently transferred Air Force recruiter.

When they arrive in rural Pennsylvania in the midst of the Vietnam War—a hard time to be a recruiter—he’s delighted when his father gets him a large (and rather unruly) dog from the pound. Jack turns out to be a Pharaoh hound, a rare breed of hunting dog. When trashcans are overturned, then a cat is killed and a horse attacked, neighbors believe Jack must be responsible, creating a witch-hunt atmosphere and doing nothing to improve Joshua’s friend-making prospects. Ray, a boy of his age, seems like a good friend-candidate, but he’s usually paired up with angry, spoiled, rich boy Prater, who plays with guns and seems to hate the newcomer from the start. Almost as bad, Joshua’s father, conscious of his own unpopular place in the community, sides more with the neighbors than with his son, leaving the boy on his own in his efforts to prove the dog’s innocence. While other characters are predictable and lightly sketched, Joshua is vividly depicted through his first-person narration and amusing interior monologues, and the conflicts he deals with are effectively realized.

In all, it's an entertaining boy-and-dog adventure set against a not-often-depicted era of political strife that’s notably similar to the present. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8027-9453-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.

PROMISE THE NIGHT

MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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