WALKING TO THE BUS-RIDER BLUES

Social issues, civil-rights history, adventure, and mystery are all skillfully combined in this gripping story of 12-year-old Alfa Merryfield, his sister Zinnia, and their great-grandmother Lydia. Setting her story in Montgomery, Alabama, during the summer of 1956, when the bus boycott precipitated by Rosa Parks is already six months old and racial tensions are high, Robinet (Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, 1998, etc.) has created richly delineated characters and conveyed a strong sense of time and place from the perspective of two African-American children who are deeply involved in it all. In addition to the larger social issues, Alfa and Zinnia face other, more personal and immediate problems. Lydia’s mind has started to wander, and the rent money that the three have struggled to gather for their tar-paper shack each month has been mysteriously disappearing from its hiding place. Even worse, the three are accused of stealing money from the big yellow house they are hired to clean. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for nonviolent resistance, and his admonishment that “justice delayed is justice denied,” Alfa and Zinnia work tirelessly and ingeniously to solve both mysteries. Elements that add even more depth and suspense to the story include questions concerning the children’s “phantom mother,” who left them with Mama Merryfield when they were three-and-a-half years and six months old, and who has never been seen or heard from since; the secret signals and signs of solidarity that are exchanged behind the backs of white people; and the constant tension and brutality of an unequal and racist world—tensions and brutality that are exacerbated as the old order begins to crumble. Robinet has succeeded admirably in conveying all of this and more in a way that young readers will be able to understand, all the while telling a story that will keep them turning the pages. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-83191-9

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

more