BROKEN STRINGS

A beautiful, painful, heartfelt reminder that the past is with us still.

Zayde’s memories profoundly affect his young granddaughter.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the school’s annual musical is to be Fiddler on the Roof, because its themes resonate. Eighth grader Shirli is a very talented singer and actor who is disappointed to be given the lead part of Tevye’s wife, Golde, who has no solo. She believes that her beloved grandfather can help her research background for the play, although she knows almost nothing of his past. Zayde has never allowed any form of music in his home, and when Shirli finds an old, damaged violin in the attic, it causes him great pain. As the play begins to take over Shirli’s life, she shares it all with Zayde, who finds he is able to recount bits of their family history. His mother barely survived the pogroms in Russia. When he was a child, he played violin in his family’s klezmer band. And then came the Holocaust and the hell that was Auschwitz, where he lost them all and was forced to play music as his fellow Jews went to the gas chambers. Shirli’s voice is true and strong as she narrates her own tale of rehearsals, her very ethnically diverse friendships, her deep distress as she witnesses Zayde’s pain, and her joy as he reconnects with his music.

A beautiful, painful, heartfelt reminder that the past is with us still. (authors’ note, acknowledgements) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-73526-624-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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