SOS TITANIC

From a familiar event, Bunting (Train to Somewhere, p. 65, etc.) creates a gripping story that will have readers struggling right along with its hero on the doomed Titanic. Barry O'Neill, 15, leaves Ireland, where he's been living with his grandparents, to join his parents in New York. He sails in first class on the largest oceangoing vessel in the world, the Titanic. Also on board, in steerage, are Barry's worst enemies, the fighting Flynn boys, who have threatened to throw him overboard; with them is their gentle sister Pegeen. From the outset, Barry fares badly with the Flynns; in the meantime, his steward—born with a caul—predicts disaster for the ship and its occupants. The one positive force is Barry's crush on Pegeen and her reciprocal interest. When the ship begins to sink, Barry witnesses the other passengers' disbelief and jocularity, and then their panic or (more rarely) stoicism. He makes a desperate attempt to find Pegeen, who is trapped with hundreds of others in steerage until all the lifeboats are launched. Suspense, adventure, romance, and a protagonist who comes of age under terrible circumstances combine in a novel that survives the tragedy at its center without diminishing it, and somehow remains upbeat. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200271-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history.

THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL

Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta.

Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.” Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to. In her latest work, Lee (The Secret of a Heart Note, 2016, etc.) continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present—and had a voice—in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work.

An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4095-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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