WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS

Set in a railroad town in West Virginia in the 1940s, these quaint and compelling short stories, which together function as a novel, tell the engrossing tale of young Jimmy Cannon, who is growing from boy to man at the very same time that the most important elements in his life—his father and the steam-engine trains he has loved since childhood—are chugging toward their last breaths. The stories, taking place on a series of seven All Hallow’s Eves, follow Jimmy as he engages in childish pranks, plays in the championship football game, spies on the secret railroad society that his father and brothers belong to and finally is inducted into that society after his father’s death. Ultimately, Jimmy learns to accept that the days of the steam engine are over, to better understand his emotionally distant father and to embrace his role as newest member of his father’s society, which turns out to be centered not on the railroad after all, but on faith, brotherhood and love. An unassuming masterpiece. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25189-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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