In November of 1941, Adam Pelko is in yet another new high school. He’s a military brat; his father is a naval officer recently assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona and stationed in Pearl Harbor. Adam’s father is a spit-and-polish lieutenant who inspects the dust on the shelves and the wrinkles in the sheets in Adam’s bedroom. When Davi Mori, a classmate whose father was born in Japan, invites him to go fishing early Sunday morning, December 7th, Adam disobeys his father. “This is a military family,” his father reminds him, and his son’s friendship with someone Japanese would have a negative influence on the father’s career. Nonetheless, the two boys, along with a Hawaiian classmate, find themselves in a boat, watching in stunned amazement as the Japanese planes bomb and nearly destroy the American fleet. Adam, though slightly wounded, goes to the docks to look for his father. Somewhat improbably, he ends up wearing a navy uniform and carrying a rifle as he helps rescue sailors and guard the road in case of a land invasion. He eventually gets home and waits futilely with his mother and little sister until his father is declared officially missing-in-action and the family is evacuated back to the mainland. This holds the promise of an exciting tale, but Mazer does not fully develop his themes of father-son conflict, and there is a stilted, wooden quality to the writing as he tries to convey the horror and shock of the attack. Graham Salisbury’s Under the Blood Red Sun (1995) is a much more fully developed tale, set in the same locale, and Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Art of Keeping Cool (2000) is a more effective and involving story about boys during WWII. Mazer’s afterword on Pearl Harbor contains information about the Japanese in America at that time, but unfortunately his story does not effectively involve the reader with the requisite emotional intensity or dramatic narrative. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84161-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and...


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Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-395-53680-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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