NOT THE END OF THE WORLD

A masterpiece from a gifted storyteller presents the tale of Noah and the Great Flood as anything but a joyride. Seen through the eyes of Noah’s youngest daughter, Timna, with occasional insertions by other members of the family, and even several animal passengers, the Ark is a filthy, festering, all too frail refuge on a strange and scary trip. With her gentle little brother Japheth and Zillah, a bitter abductee to whom he’s been forcibly married, Timna escapes her misfit family into the Ark’s dark, stinking holds whenever possible. There, she helps care not only for the suffering animals, but also for two children, Kittim and his baby sister, who have been secretly rescued from the floodwaters. McCaughrean looks between the lines of the Bible’s sketchy version of events, to the soul-searing effect, for instance, of hearing but having to ignore desperate pleas from outside as the floodwaters rise. She also tucks in ideas from the Odyssey and other ancient tales, plus poignant references to creatures like finucas and quexolans that no longer exist because they died on the voyage. She also, mercifully, suggests that God may have allowed more than just Noah’s family to see the rainbow at the end. Younger than Anne Provoost’s In the Shadow of the Ark (2004) and unlike Richard Monte’s The Flood Tales (2000), this is a breathlessly suspenseful tale as well as a brilliant exploration of doubt, certainty and spirit. It will sweep readers away. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-076030-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.

PRISONER B-3087

If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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THE NIGHT OF LAS POSADAS

A wondrous occurrence, an ancient tradition, and an elderly nun’s abiding faith are the basis of this moving Chirstmas tale from dePaola (26 Fairmount Avenue, p. 629, etc.). Sister Angie is overjoyed when her niece Lupe and her husband are selected to play Mary and Joseph—here, Maria and José—for Las Posadas, the reenactment of the journey into Bethlehem. When Sister Angie becomes ill and Lupe and Roberto become stranded in a heavy snowstorm, it seems as if the celebration will be delayed. However, a couple arrives just in time to take the place of the missing players. The whole village participates in the procession, from the singers who follow Mary and Joseph, to the “devils” who attempt to prevent the weary travelers from finding lodging. After several rebuffs, the couple arrives at the gates of the courtyard; these open and the entire assembly enters to celebrate. When Lupe and Roberto finally show up, the other couple is nowhere to be found. The story takes a supernatural twist when Sister Angie discovers that the figures in the church’s manger scene have come to life, temporarily, for the procession. The mysteries and miracles of the season are kept at bay; this simple narrative spells everything out, resulting in a primer on the tradition. Richly hued, luminescent illustrations radiate from the pages; an introduction and author’s note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23400-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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