THE JOURNAL OF PATRICK SEAMUS FLAHERTY

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

“I pretty much use the same words over and over, because I don’t know very many,” soldier Patrick Seamus Flaherty tells Doc Jarvis midway through this entry in the Dear America series. And therein lies the problem: readers are subjected to the poor writing of an unreflective high school boy as he records—in a blue book his father had left over from his own journal-keeping days in WWII—his observations of his tour of duty in Vietnam and of the events surrounding the battle of Khe Sanh in 1968. The problem with this entry is the problem with the series in general and with the journal format in particular: journal-writing distances readers from the drama and immediacy of events. An inarticulate witness such as Patrick inspires little interest in reading his words. Battles are fought, friends die, and Patrick is wounded; yet the words don’t carry any depth of feeling or insight. As the war grinds on, so do Patrick’s words. Even in a pain killer-induced haze, he writes and writes, until he stops because “It hurts a lot.” An epilogue continues Patrick’s story to the present, encouraging readers to think of Patrick as a real person as he marries, joins the Boston Fire Department, has children and grandchildren, and rarely talks about his time in Vietnam. The best part is the Historical Note, which provides an overview of the war in Vietnam and may make the volume of use to report-writers. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-14890-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.

NORTHWIND

A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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