With its dependable truisms—variations on “the longest journey starts with a single step”—and its comforting message of the...

WALKING HOME

Thirteen-year-old Muchoki, his mother and his little sister live in a refugee camp after fleeing the intertribal bloodshed in their Kenyan hometown of Eldoret that took the life of their Kikuyu father.

When their mother succumbs to malaria, Muchoki decides to set out on foot with 7-year-old Jata to reach their mother’s relatives in Kambaland, a journey of over 200 kilometers. Canadian author Walters turns his firsthand knowledge of Kenya into rather standard, message-laden but adventuresome fare. On their journey, the children find individuals willing to help and who act out of kindness both in cities and in the wild. There’s the requisite encounter with a lion and another with a Maasai warrior who defies the stereotype that Muchoki grew up with. Adults of a variety of tribes reinforce the idea that killing is always wrong, allowing Muchoki to grow beyond his urge to avenge his father’s death. Unfortunately, nowhere does the author use a date to tie the story to actual events, a shortcoming for a first-person account based on the very real recent unrest in Kenya. Nonetheless, this is a solid story of hope prevailing over despair.

With its dependable truisms—variations on “the longest journey starts with a single step”—and its comforting message of the strength of family, this story should resonate with North American middle-grade readers. (Adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-38568-157-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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