A SUDDEN SILENCE

A moving piece of Americana from a veteran team (Fly Away Home, 1992, etc.), introducing the orphan trains of the 19th and early 20th century to a picture-book audience. Marianne narrates; she's among 14 children from the orphanages and streets of New York City who are being shipped to the "New West" of Illinois and Iowa in search of good homes. At stop after stop her traveling mates are chosen, some clearly for their strength and usefulness, others for their looks. Marianne is neither strong nor pretty and is repeatedly passed over. Secretly she has promised herself that her mother would be at one of the stops to meet her. In the end she is taken in by a nice, elderly couple who readers know will treat her well. Himler's lovely watercolor and gouache paintings express both the loneliness and hope of the children in scene after scene of the rugged new country. A reminder that the good old days were not so idyllic; this book will have a place in the history curriculum, but it's also an involving read-aloud.Jesse Harmon's struggle to cope with the death of his younger brother, Bry, in a hit-and-run accident is complicated by his sense of guilt for having failed to prevent the accident and by his relationship with Bry's girl, Chloe. Jesse had been close to Bry, a talented 16-year-old whose deafness contributed to his death. Trying to deal with their grief, Jesse and Chloe collaborate in a search for the killer; working together, they feel a mutual attraction. Bunting skillfully creates suspense through an elusive witness (a local wino) and a false lead (a young drunk who can't remember whether he killed Bry). When the clues lead inexorably to Chloe's alcoholic mother, Jesse finds himself forced, with her acquiescence, to hurt Chloe by making the truth public. Despite the suspenseful pacing, Bunting handles Jesse and Chloe's relationship with sensitivity. By including several minor characters whose alcoholism is pivotal to the plot, she emphasizes the tragedy that alcohol can inflict on innocent bystanders and other family members.

Pub Date: April 10, 1988

ISBN: 0152058680

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Artful, cathartic, and most needed.

AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT

A profound visual testimony to how much changed while we all had to stay inside and how much—painfully, mournfully—stayed the same.

Reynolds’ poetry and Griffin’s art perform a captivating dance on pages of mixed-media collage and emotive reflection on the pronounced threats facing a contemporary Black family. In “Breath One,” the opening of the verse narrative, the unnamed boy protagonist struggles with the onslaught of TV news coverage of the systemic violence and death experienced by Black people—coverage that is both overwhelming and insufficient. The television then forms the backdrop of the narrator’s concerns for his bedridden father, who is struggling with an acute respiratory illness while isolated in a bedroom. The art is sometimes spare and monochrome before shifting to a bright and striking palette as Griffin deploys aesthetics that enliven the rich flow and rhythm of Reynolds’ words. The two skillfully go back and forth like rap duos of old, each with a distinct voice that enriches the other. The result is an effective critique of the ways we’ve failed as a society to care for one another. By “Breath Three,” however, a complicated optimism shines through for a family that perseveres through closeness and connection despite what is broadcast from their TV. While grounded in 2020, many of the issues touched on explicitly are very much not over and not even new, making this remarkable work both timely and timeless.

Artful, cathartic, and most needed. (conversation between creators) (Illustrated poetry. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3946-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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