A richly rewarding look at an era.

HALLEY

A Depression-era novel is defined by the hard-edged beauty of its rural Southern setting. 

When 14-year-old Halley’s father dies, in 1936, her mother capitulates to the demands of her own father, a strict Southern Baptist preacher, that the family move back home. Pa and Ma Franklin live in a farmhouse much like the one Halley leaves, only without the soft comforts—chief among them her brother Robbie’s piano—Daddy had provided. Halley’s a tough pragmatist, but she resents giving up her dream of attending high school to care for her aging grandmother. She even more strongly chafes at the fact that her mother must become a mill hand and turn her weekly pay packet over to Pa Franklin. Halley’s growing sense of self and her mother’s journey from grief to independence evolve slowly, changing like the seasons on the farm; the plot moves unhurriedly but with determination to the satisfying end. That Gibbons knows this hardscrabble world to the bone shows in every precise detail of chamber pot, buttermilk and cow-safe fencing.

A richly rewarding look at an era. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58838-290-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: NewSouth

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Loosely based on Noble’s own grandmother’s story, this debut hits awfully close to home in the current anti-immigrant...

EVANGELINA TAKES FLIGHT

In 1911 during the Mexican Revolution, a Mexican family seeking refuge from Pancho Villa, soldiers, and violence migrates to Texas.

Debut novelist Noble introduces 13-year-old Evangelina de León—a self-aware, observant, caring daughter and sister—her six siblings, parents, and abuelo, who live on a ranch located outside of Mariposa, a small, northern (fictional) Mexican town. Days after her sister’s quinceañera and the news of imminent raids and violence, the family splits up and, in waves, arrive at a relative’s home in Texas. They have not left struggle behind, however. Signs that read “No Perros! No Negros! No Mexicanos!” tell them they are shunned at grocery stores. The political and racial tensions in their new hometown are not subtle: the family is denied a burial for a stillborn son; foreign-born children must use the woods as a bathroom instead of the school’s outhouse; a black boy is shot; a Lebanese kid is harassed; a young Mexican boy is spat upon; and both white children and adults are cruel to the immigrants in the neighborhood. Using the first person with Spanish sprinkled throughout, Noble propels the novel with vivid imagery and lovely prose, successfully guiding readers behind an immigrant family’s lens. Heartbreakingly real scenarios and the family’s perseverance will allow readers to forgive slow-moving sections.

Loosely based on Noble’s own grandmother’s story, this debut hits awfully close to home in the current anti-immigrant political climate. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-848-0

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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