An engaging, emotional read that tells an important story—with caveats.

ALL HE KNEW

A young deaf boy faces the horror of institutionalization in the late 1930s and ’40s. This verse novel tells the story of Henry, who is born hearing and becomes deaf due to a fever at age 4. The school for the deaf erroneously labels him “unteachable,” and he is sent to an institution for the “feebleminded,” where the children face abuse and neglect. Henry’s story merges with that of Victor, a conscientious objector who works at the institution. Frost depicts one grim reality of deaf/Deaf life in mid-20th-century America in a way that is approachable for readers as she explores the rarely discussed story of conscientious objectors in World War II. The story is told in discrete poems, creating an episodic narrative that highlights poignant moments and delves into characters’ thoughts. All the characters are presumed white. However artful, the book is not without flaws. Characters repeatedly suggest that Henry’s institutionalization is particularly unjust because he is “smart,” an implicit comment on intellectual disabilities that is not adequately explored. The author’s note detracts from the story itself, raising questions that wouldn’t need to be asked otherwise, such as why the author gave Henry the ability to speak when the man he is based on could not. A sequence of poems by the author’s mother-in-law that inspired the novel are included and contain an outdated portrayal of disability that is presented without context or commentary for readers. An engaging, emotional read that tells an important story—with caveats. (notes on form and characters, acknowledgements) (Verse historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31299-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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

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REFUGEE

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...

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS

Coming soon!!

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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