True and powerful in its simplicity.

A young girl is “a happy child in a happy place” until everything changes.

Hédi lives in a little town in Hungary with her parents, her sister, Livia, and her dog, Bodri. She shares secrets and fun with her best friend, Marika. Hédi is Jewish and Marika is Christian, and that has not made a difference in their friendship. When Hitler’s frightening, hate-filled voice is heard, Hédi’s parents try to reassure the children. But the soldiers come and bring a new reality. “Hitler hated me and my family because we were Jewish.” Restrictions force Hédi’s family to stay indoors, always hoping things would get better, but of course they never did. They’re rounded up and put on a train for the camps. Dreaming of Bodri throughout her captivity keeps Hédi from total despair as the many months pass. Her parents are gone; she and her sister, their heads shaved, are hungry, cold, and filthy. The sisters survive and are miraculously reunited with faithful Bodri. In a brief introduction, Fried warns that her story is difficult for her to tell, but readers must listen. She speaks to a young audience in carefully chosen language, skillfully translated from Swedish by Schenck, telling just enough of the horrors to help them to a modicum of understanding in the hope that they will always choose good over evil. Wirsén’s liquid watercolors perfectly invoke that time and place and its emotional upheaval. Never again.

True and powerful in its simplicity. (Picture book/memoir. 6-12)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5565-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Certain to steal hearts.

In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023


An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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