Yuko's story and her meeting with Christian are worth reading and can start the conversation with young readers about...

AND THEN THE SKY EXPLODED

Thirteen-year-old Christian's first funeral is his great-grandfather Will's, and he's already bewildered when he and his family are leaving the church and run into protesters who call GG Will a murderer because of his involvement in the Manhattan project.

A couple of weeks later, the school bully also taunts Christian about GG Will being a killer, prompting Christian to learn that the Manhattan project team developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Poulsen begins the book with three hard-hitting pages about Yuko, a survivor Christian will meet after a run of extraordinary fortune involving a school trip and a chance meeting with Yuko's granddaughter. Readers revisit her story after the bombing in pieces interspersed through the first half, which is dominated by Christian's preteen school days and lags. The second half is more successful and, despite incongruous supernatural elements, feels like the real heart of the book. Yuko's story of survival is inherently more compelling than the football game Christian's team wins against all odds or his deaf best friend, Carson, also white, who seems to serve no real purpose beyond acting as a sounding board for Christian. The bully is nothing but stereotype. There's a great story here, but it's buried in mundane fluff.

Yuko's story and her meeting with Christian are worth reading and can start the conversation with young readers about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4597-3637-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end.

THE RUNAWAY'S DIARY

A teenager runs away to Seattle, hoping to locate her missing sister.

Fifteen-year-old Eleanor idolizes her older sister, Sam, despite their being complete opposites: Sam is outgoing and wild, while socially awkward Eleanor is known as Little Miss Perfect, always doing the right and safe thing. After Sam runs away from home, the only communication she has with Eleanor are three postcards sent from Seattle. Eleanor decides to trace her 18-year-old sister’s footsteps, leaving her messages and hopping on a bus to find her. But when Sam doesn’t meet her at the bus depot, Eleanor, who has no real plan, has to learn how to survive on her own while searching the city for her sister. While the close bond between the girls is well depicted through flashbacks, the reveal of an important secret ultimately feels anticlimactic. A major plot point relies too heavily on chance and coincidence to be fully believable. While the color scheme, cityscapes, and background illustrations are atmospheric, the manga-inspired drawing style comes across as dated and flat. The depiction of the fabricated stories Eleanor tells is intriguing, as are the themes of friendship, living in the moment, and maintaining hope; unfortunately, none are thematically strong enough to resonate. The emotional impact of Eleanor’s experiences is diluted by her at times humorous narration. Eleanor and the main cast read as White.

A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end. (Graphic novel. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-50023-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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