THE DRUMMER BOY OF VICKSBURG

A historical novel about a real boy who served as a drummer in the Union Army during the Civil War, from Wisler (Caleb's Choice, p. 978, etc.). Orion Howe, 14, and his younger brother, Lyston, are students when war erupts: The call to arms is a siren song to their father, a cabinetmaker who'd found glory playing the fife ``in the war with Mexico,'' and soon the boys, whom he's taught to drum, eagerly follow in their father's footsteps. While his father first takes Lyston to war, insisting that Orion finish school, the older boy soon joins them through his own cunning. The Howes endure illness, the horrors of battle, the death of comrades-in-arms, and miraculously survive, relatively unscathed, at the war's end. Wisler marshals the facts admirably, offering a brief capsule at the end of how Orion spent the rest of his life, but despite the dramatic potential of the subject, and the legends that sprang from Orion's heroics (he crossed a battlefield with an injured leg and asked General Sherman for more ammunition for his regiment), the narrative never ignites. The war is a noble one when they begin, and Orion's act further ennobles it, making the Howes little more than pawns in a conflict they obviously can't hope to understand. (b&w map) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-525-67537-X

Page Count: 131

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

ASK ME NO QUESTIONS

Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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