BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS

A 13-year-old Haitian girl describes, over the course of five months, her life in Haiti and then in New York as she, her mother, and her brother join her father, who left Haiti years before. Celiane loves her life in the mountain village of Beau Jour; she is near her grandparents, the mountains agree with her, and she is the recent recipient of a journal from her teacher—because she is such a good writer. The only hole in her life is that left by her father, who sends a cassette tape addressing each family member in turn, but from whom she feels increasingly estranged by time and distance. When the bus she and her mother are riding in gets blown up in pre-election violence—the year is 2000, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is running for re-election—the effort to reunite with her father moves into high gear. Her Tante Rose, a nurse, pulls some diplomatic strings, and suddenly they are all together in New York. This is Danticat’s (After the Dance, p. 782, etc.) first novel for children, and it shares with others that have gone before it a tendency to write down to the audience. The diary entries are by and large flat; Celiane writes of the violence in curiously disengaged tones, considering that she and her mother are victims. Likewise, when the narrative moves to New York, the upheaval this creates for the family is related from a distance, despite the supposed current nature of the diary: “It wasn’t anything [Papa] said, just the way his face looked, tightly drawn and strained. Perhaps we, especially me, were going to be more of a burden to him than he had first thought.” It is unfortunate that there are so few children’s novels of Haiti that this offering naturally begs comparison to Frances Temple’s electrifying A Taste of Salt (1992). This, alas, is a pale successor. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-37299-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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