BURYING THE SUN

In this somber companion to The Impossible Journey (2003) and Angel on the Square (2001), Whelan brings the horrific, 880-day Siege of Leningrad to life for young readers. From the moment 14-year-old Georgi Ivanova hears Germany has declared war on Russia, he wants nothing more than to enlist in the Russian army. Because he’s too young, he serves his country in every other way he can, including helping starving Russians by transporting food across frozen lakes in the dead of winter. Whelan describes the horrors of war relentlessly, as pages upon pages of atrocities unfold. Interspersed good news and small wartime miracles like a butterfly and a blooming flower, while a welcome respite, sometimes feel abrupt. Readers will cheer the selfless war efforts of Georgi and his family and their commitment to the importance of art in society. Georgi’s sister’s work to protect the treasures of the Hermitage from wartime destruction feels as urgent as Shostakovich’s heroic composition of the Leningrad Symphony. All in all, a vivid portrait of a country and a family under siege, and a testimony to human resilience. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-054112-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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THE BIG NOTHING

From the Neighborhood series , Vol. 3

Big brother Duane is off in boot camp, and Justin is left trying to hold the parental units together. Fat, acne-ridden, and missing his best friend Ben, who’s in the throes of his first boy-girl relationship with Cass, Justin’s world is dreary. It gets worse when he realizes that all of his mother’s suspicions about his father are probably true, and that Dad may not return from his latest business trip. Surprisingly ultra-cool Jemmie, who is also missing her best friend, Cass, actually recognizes his existence and her grandmother invites Justin to use their piano in the afternoons when Jemmie’s at cross-country practice. The “big nothing” place, where Justin retreats in time of trouble, is a rhythmic world and soon begins to include melody and provide Justin with a place to express himself. Practice and discipline accompany this gradual exploration of his talent. The impending war in Iraq gives this story a definite place in time, and its distinct characters make it satisfying and surprisingly realistic. Misfit finds fit. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56145-326-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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