Ultimately, this rich source of unusual background material on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in general is marred by low...

IS IT NIGHT OR DAY?

A NOVEL OF IMMIGRATION AND SURVIVAL, 1938-1942

Roughly hewn pedagogical elements are shoveled atop this abbreviated version of a 2010 novel based on the experiences of the author’s mother, a Jewish child sent from Nazi Germany to a hostile reception in this country.

Edith has seen her family go from respectable burghers to “filth, Jews polluting the village.” The 12-year-old is sent to relatives in Chicago; there, her aunt treats her as a servant, schoolmates ignore her or taunt her and the government requires her to register as an “enemy alien.” Blocks of first-person text are recast from the print edition and are accompanied by awkwardly constructed collage-and-watercolor illustrations. Behind buttons fitted around the narrative are several inset featurettes on topics from “Nazi Bullying” to Hank Greenberg. Also available with a tap are multiple video clips of interviews with the author and her mother; these are marked by regrettably poor sound quality. There are as well as pro-and-con considerations for debate questions (misnamed “Case Studies”) like what to do about classroom bullying or “What programs should a public school offer immigrants who do not speak English?” Sprays of stars in the art key short comments and, on occasion, a fading figure representing a departing companion or friend. Audio narration doesn’t always match the text but can be switched on or off at any time, and three strip indexes allow rapid access to any screen or added feature. So plentiful are the added features, however, that oftentimes the central narrative feels pushed to the side.

Ultimately, this rich source of unusual background material on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in general is marred by low production values. (iPad historical-fiction app. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Literactivity

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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