THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

Uneven but engrossing tale about Bridget, 14, who— suspecting that her father wishes he had never adopted her— suddenly finds her birth parents' old house. Bridget is furious: Daddy has bundled off the family, including nonspeaking little brother Morgan, to summer in northern New Hampshire instead of on their usual Maine island, largely at the suggestion of new nanny Ingrid, who is maddeningly insistent on reminding Bridget that she's overweight and adopted. There, in a mysterious old house, Bridget finds clues that will eventually lead her to her birth parents' name and the sad reason that she was given up. She also meets Elissa, an understanding artist who offers an acceptance that Bridget and Morgan haven't found at home and who acts as a catalyst for several changes, including a confrontation that finally causes Morgan to speak and Bridget to ask for a chance to meet her natural father. Beginning with Daddy's choice of the New Hampshire location, there are too many contrivances and unanswered questions here. Elissa's past is unnecessarily mysterious, and it's not clear why Morgan doesn't speak; moreover, his big moment is trampled over by Bridget's argument with her father. Also, Bridget's overwrought sensitivity about her looks and manners becomes tiresome. Still, her concerns are shared by many youngsters, the situation is inherently dramatic, and Holland writes with skill enough that the reader really does care what happens. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-37178-5

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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