KIPLING’S CHOICE

“John Kipling was just one small officer in the Great War,” the war to end all wars. He was 18 years old in his first and last battle. He was the only son of the world-famous author, Rudyard Kipling, who pulled strings to get John into the army. “Perfectly timed,” Rudyard thought of the war. “Here was John’s chance.” Moreover, Kipling’s wartime writing rallied the nation, his verses like oil on the fire. Second Lieutenant Kipling suffers horrific injuries as part of the Irish Guards in France, and Spillebeen’s grim narrative tells the alternating stories of John’s death throes and how he ended up a soldier in the first place. His death breaks his father, who’s horrified at what he has done. “How many boys have I written into the grave,” he wonders. This powerful anti-war novel, made even more powerful by its roots in a famous author’s real life and his evolution from war zealot to embittered, broken father, deserves a place beside All Quiet on the Western Front. (epilogue, bibliography) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 30, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-43124-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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