Skip this uneven collection’s slighter offerings; its best are worth finding.

WELCOME HOME

This wide-ranging anthology features adoptees, foster-care veterans, trauma survivors, young birth mothers, adoptive parents, and those whose lives they touch.

Contemporary realism, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction: these 29 stories cover complicated territory. In adoption, happiness is inextricably bound to sorrow, even when birth parents put their child’s welfare ahead of their own, even when adoptee and adoptive parents form a loving bond. In Caela Carter’s luminous story, an African-American teen, a gifted student and athlete, must tell her beloved mother, whom she visits in prison, that her track coach and foster mother wants to adopt her; being gifted a life her mother couldn’t provide is a bitter joy. In Julie Leung’s “Ink Drips Black,” the bond connecting a Chinese grandmother and her American-adopted granddaughter, Stacy, is sacrifice. The high price paid for Stacy’s future is loss of family and culture. Elsewhere, a veteran of multiple placements dreads removal from the warm, welcoming foster family she’s bonded with; an adoptive family invites the young birth mother who made their family possible to remain part of it. Too many less-impressive stories offer a conventional outsider’s view of adoption—adoption by generous, loving parents as the happy ending to years of birthparent abuse or neglect. The best, however, reflect the bittersweet truths that adoptive families differ profoundly from biological ones and that coming to terms with these differences is a lifelong process.

Skip this uneven collection’s slighter offerings; its best are worth finding. (Short stories. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63583-004-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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