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

BROKEN STRINGS

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 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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