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

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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Bleakly demonstrates that war, no matter its scale, is devastating.

THE BUTTON WAR

A TALE OF THE GREAT WAR

When World War I descends upon a tiny Polish village, seven boys launch their own deadly battle for the right to be crowned king of the land.

While playing in the woods, 12-year-old narrator Patryk finds a button, but his friend Jurek claims that it belongs to him. The rusty button becomes the inspiration for Jurek’s latest scheme. Whoever can obtain the best button can claim sovereignty over the village and rule over the others. Despite their apprehension at Jurek’s fervency, they all agree to the terms. As the bombs fall and the troops arrive, the eponymous conflict begins. But Patryk soon finds that Jurek is willing to do whatever it takes to claim the prize. Stealing, espionage, and murder are all fair in war. While the message is clear—there are no winners in war—the story’s lack of true heroism leaves readers with little hope for a better world. Fans of The Lord of the Flies and readers ready to plumb ambiguity will respond to the dark themes. Diversity is limited to nationality and class. German, Russian, Austrian, and British soldiers flood the town, and the boys, while all Polish, differ in standing. Jurek, an orphan, is one of the poorest in town, while the other boys are sons of artisans, teachers, and local politicians.

Bleakly demonstrates that war, no matter its scale, is devastating. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9053-3

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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