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 A sequence of poems by the author’s mother-in-law that inspired the novel are included and contain an outdated portrayal of disability that is presented without context or commentary for readers.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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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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A luscious, shivery delight.

ECHO MOUNTAIN

After losing almost everything in the Great Depression, Ellie’s family moves to the Maine woods on Echo Mountain to start a farm—then tragedy strikes.

Not long after getting them established in their new life, Ellie’s father is struck on the head by a falling tree and lapses into a monthslong coma, his recovery unlikely. Never feeling threatened by the wilderness the way her mother and older sister, Esther, do, Ellie takes over many of her beloved father’s chores, finding comfort and confidence in the forest. She’s fully mindful of her place in the natural world and her impact on the plants and animals she shares it with. After she becomes determined to use the resources of the woods, however novel and imaginative the application, to save her father, conflict with her mother and Esther increases sharply. Led by a dog, Ellie discovers elderly Cate—called “hag” and shunned as a witch—badly injured, living alone in a cabin on the mountaintop. Cate fully understands the 12-year-old’s slightly supernatural sense. Cate’s grandson, Larkin, Ellie’s age, flits in and out of the tale before finally claiming his place in this magnificently related story of the wide arc of responsibility, acceptance, and, ultimately, connectedness. Carefully paced and told in lyrical prose, characters—all default White—are given plenty of time and room to develop against a well-realized, timeless setting.

A luscious, shivery delight. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55556-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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